Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave believe Bears will regret trading Justin Fields originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAS VEGAS — Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave have a clear bias when it comes to the franchise-altering quarterback decision that awaits the Bears this offseason.
Both Smith-Njigba and Olave played with Bears quarterback Justin Fields at Ohio State. They carved up defenses together and won almost every time they stepped on the field, including a run to the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship, where they lost to Alabama.
In two seasons with Fields, Olave caught 99 passes for 1,578 yards and 19 touchdowns. Smith-Njigba only caught 10 passes for 49 yards and one score in his lone season playing with Fields in Columbus, Ohio.
Olave and Smith-Njigba have seen Fields’ talent up close and believe if the Bears trade him this offseason and draft Caleb Williams, they will do so at their own peril.
“That’s on them,” Smith-Njigba told NBC Sports at Super Bowl 58 Radio Row about the Bears potentially moving on from Fields. “I mean, shhhhh, that’s on them. If they do that, I say good for Justin, honestly. He’s a QB1. An NFL quarterback. So if that’s what they want to do then I guess that’s fine.”
Olave and Smith-Njigba have watched Fields navigate a terrible situation for a young quarterback and come out the other side.
When they watch the Bears, they see a team that feeds off the energy and play of its starting quarterback. A team whose success comes from Fields, not in spite of him.
“I think what we have seen if just his competitive nature, just him going out there making unorthodox plays when the pocket collapses,” Smith-Njigba said. “We see him, you know, tunnel vision, make plays, and just the competitiveness. He’s a winner. To me, when I watch the Chicago Bears, that’s what I see – him trying to win. That’s what you expect from Justin. That’s what Justin brings to the table, a winning attitude, and I know he can get things done.”
Olave and the New Orleans Saints faced the Bears this season in Week 9 when Fields was out with a dislocated thumb. He has seen what the Bears are building and how it could function with Fields as the trigger man.
To Olave, what’s impressed him most is how his former college teammate has shrugged off the wave of negativity that is constantly hitting him as the starting quarterback of the Bears.
“Just what he’s dealt with. A lot of negativity. A lot of bash,” Olave said. “I’m excited. He’s one of the most talented players I played with. I know he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, so I’m excited for what they build around him.”
Olave and Smith-Njigba are confident Fields will thrive wherever he plays in 2024 and beyond. But the former Buckeye duo sees a quick path for success both for Fields and the Bears — drafting another former teammate in wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
“I think that’s the best move for Chicago in my eyes,” Smith-Njigba said. “If you want a dynamic receiver, a dominant receiver right now, a person that’s on an island that’s going to catch every single ball, that’s going to move the chains, that’s going to score you touchdowns, that’s going to show people and be a leader, I say you go with Marvin Harrison.”
Olave laughed when the idea of pairing Fields with Harrison Jr. was brought up before leaving no doubt about what the Bears should do.
“That’s the one!” Olave exclaimed, smiling. “Number one pick!”
General manager Ryan Poles’ calculus will go much deeper than the opinions of two former Buckeyes whose allegiance clearly lies with Fields. He has to do what’s best for the franchise long term, and there’s a good chance that what’s best for the Bears is to move on from Fields and draft Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick.
But Olave and Smith-Njigba see what most in the Bears’ locker room have seen since Fields arrived: a talented playmaker who is getting better with each snap. Someone who Olave and Smith-Njigba believe is just getting started. Someone the Bears will one day regret trading.
“If they do that, that’s on them,” Olave said. “That’s on them.”
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