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Jaylon Johnson: Bears' locker room mature enough to handle Justin Fields trade

Several Chicago Bears veterans spent the past months stumping for a return of quarterback Justin Fields. However, as the days progress, it's become generally accepted that Chicago will use the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Caleb Williams, meaning Fields' days with the club are numbered.

Corner Jaylon Johnson, one of those players who supported the Bears retaining Fields, said Monday that the club is mature enough to handle the QB change.

"We know the business that we're in," he said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "So I feel like it wouldn't be mature of us as a locker room not to rally together in spite of having Justin leave."

Johnson would still prefer the Bears stick with Fields but said the locker room understands the business.

"I know what it would do to keep him here. I know how we would feel with him here," he said. "We'll all have our opinions, our emotions, but as far as the locker room staying together, I think we have the right guys in the locker room to keep everything together, to keep us together."

Johnson and receiver DJ Moore have been among those who have shown support for Fields, but the corner wouldn't take it as a slap in the face if general manager Ryan Poles took the alternate path.

"We're all here to win ballgames," Johnson said. "So I don't think it's about necessarily our feelings or, 'Oh, well, you did this.' We're all here to win games. So whoever Poles brings in, whoever the staff brings in to help us win games, that's who we're going to rock with."

As the annual offseason quarterback carousel continues to spin, fewer and fewer obvious landing spots for Fields remain. That could put Chicago in an awkward situation. Do the Bears hang onto Fields in hopes a team misses out in the draft or injury strikes? Or do they sell him for a mid-to-late round pick simply to clear a clean path to Williams?

Keeping Fields past the draft could make for some awkward moments for Williams, who would have to answer questions about the locker room's support for the incumbent. Would Poles put a rookie quarterback through that? If he wants to maximize his compensation, he might have to. Or would he sell low to clear a clean path for the rookie?

In 2022, the Cleveland Browns traded a massive haul and gave Deshaun Watson a huge contract despite Baker Mayfield's presence on the roster. Cleveland didn't find a trade partner for the former No. 1 overall pick until July 6 (and still only received a conditional fifth-round pick).

The situations aren't a one-for-one comparison -- as the Browns knew Watson would miss the start of the season, giving them a plausible reason for hanging onto Mayfield past the draft -- but the circumstance is educational for Chicago. The more openings that get filled, the less leverage Poles has in any trade for his former starter.

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