The 2024 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and with the top overall pick again this season, the Chicago Bears and their decision on USC quarterback Caleb Williams will determine how the rest of the draft goes. Will they take the Trojans signal-caller and trade Justin Fields or deal the pick (again) for a treasure trove of future picks? At the Senior Bowl, scouts and executives don’t think it’s a tough choice.

“A couple of league sources wondered aloud about the benefit of keeping Fields and trading back, but when asked about the No. 1 pick, most didn’t see a debate. At this juncture, they expect it to be Williams,” The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain reported on Monday. “Their opinion of what will happen isn’t about Fields’ qualities as much as it is about the opportunity. One league source said when you think like a GM, it’s hard to pass on Williams’ talent and the benefit of starting over with a new contract. One opposing scout said he would be shocked if it wasn’t Williams.”

Regardless of what Bears fans think of Justin Fields and Caleb Williams, the point that NFL scouts and execs are making at the Senior Bowl is a fair one.

Heading into the fourth and final season of his rookie deal (with a fifth-year option still possible), the Bears are going to have to pay Fields soon if he is the QB of the future. That likely means a $40 million-plus contract, which will severely limit the team’s options elsewhere on the roster.

If they take Williams first in the NFL draft, that contract clock resets and the Bears will now have until 2027 or 2028 to pay star veterans and challenge for the playoffs or even the Super Bowl if Williams is anywhere near as good as advertised.

So, this decision is less about Williams vs. Fields but opportunity cost. That’s not as much fun to debate in sports bars, but it is the reality of the situation.