Chicago Bears fans collectively moaned when the team signed Andy Dalton in free agency. A large chunk of those same supporters may have thanked the football gods when the team selected Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL draft.
Although the Bears announced Dalton as the team’s ‘QB1’ before the draft, Fields’ arrival may change the stakes in a significant way. Don’t expect Dalton to be angry about his current situation, however.
Andy Dalton isn’t concerned about Justin Fields and the Bears’ quarterback battle
At least for now, Andy Dalton is embracing the Chicago Bears’ quarterback competition.
According to 670 The Score in Chicago, Dalton told reporters that he isn’t concerned about competing with Justin Fields, the 11th overall selection in April’s draft. The three-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal with the Bears and intended to start at quarterback.
Dalton said his eyes are only on 2021, in large part because that is the only year he is under contract with the Bears.
“I already knew that I’m going to do everything I can to be the best player I can for this team and to help us win a lot of football games. Whatever happens after this year happens. But my mindset didn’t change because they drafted Justin.”Andy Dalton
Bears coach Matt Nagy named Fields the second-string quarterback during offseason workouts. Nick Foles, who threw 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2020, remained the third-string signal-caller as of publication.
Dalton could be in a quarterback battle for the first time in his NFL career
The summer of 2021 will be a new experience for Dalton, and that doesn’t only involve playing for the Bears.
If Nagy does have a legitimate quarterback battle between Dalton and Fields, that will mark the first time the three-time Pro Bowler has to compete for his role in training camp. When the Bengals drafted Dalton in 2011, he immediately became the starter because Carson Palmer had retired amid a battle with ownership.
The Bengals traded Palmer to the Raiders midway through the 2011 season. Dalton retained the starting role until 2019, when the Bengals benched him amid a down year.
When Dalton signed with the Cowboys in 2020, he knew he’d sit behind Dak Prescott barring an injury. He took over at quarterback when Prescott suffered a season-ending right ankle compound fracture and dislocation in October.
When should Bears fans realistically expect to see Fields start?
During his best years with the Bengals, Dalton served as a proficient game manager who knew how to overcome ugly turnovers. He will turn 34 in October, however, and his best years may be behind him.
Bears fans understandably want to see Fields, but they’ll likely have to wait a substantial amount of time. Barring an injury to Dalton, the rookie may only see snaps late in blowouts to begin the season. It is too early to know if the Bears will experiment using Fields as a formation sub the way the Ravens once did with Lamar Jackson.
For now, Bears fans should circle November 1 on their calendar. That is one day after the Bears host Trey Lance and the 49ers at Soldier Field. If Dalton isn’t getting the job done or the team isn’t winning, Nagy could decide by that point, eight games into a 17-game season, that Fields is deserving of an opportunity.
But, who knows? Dalton may perform at such a high level that Fields doesn’t take over the starting reins until the 2022 regular season begins.