In PJ Walker, the Bears have a new backup QB option behind Justin Fields

The Bears have a new backup quarterback behind starter Justin Fields. On Wednesday night, the team agreed to a two-year deal with PJ Walker, according to Joe Person, a senior writer for the Athletics covers the Panthers, citing a league source.

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This is how he fits: Trevor Siemian, the Bears’ backup last year, remains under contract through 2023, and the Bears kept three quarterbacks all of last season. Nathan Peterman was on the practice squad before Siemian suffered an oblique injury in warmups before the game against the Jets in Week 12. Siemian required surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Peterman then became Fields’ backup for the remainder of the season. He started in Week 17 against the Vikings with Field’s soreness.

The Bears valued Siemian and Peterman because of their experience with similar offensive schemes. The Bears wanted to surround Fields with as many resources as possible when he learned what offensive coordinator Luke Getsy installed.

Walker’s experience with rookie receiver DJ Moore, who was acquired from the Panthers in the blockbuster deal involving the first pick, could be a major factor. They have been teammates for three seasons.

2023 effect: Does Fields need extra help in the Bears quarterback’s room? Or do the Bears want a better, more dynamic option behind Fields in Walker? Or is it both?

It depends on what’s next for Siemian on a personal level and with the Bears.

Releasing Siemian would not be prohibitive. According to Spotrac, that would result in a dead-cap hit of just $500,000.


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History: Walker went undrafted out of Temple in 2017 and spent three years with the Colts, primarily on the practice squad, before joining the Houston Roughnecks of the XFL. His final two years in Indianapolis overlapped with coach Matt Eberflus’ first two as defensive coordinator.

Walker joined the Panthers in 2020 and made five starts last season, completing 59.4 percent of his passes (63-for-106) for 731 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked seven times and finished with a 78.0 passer rating. The Panthers had a 2-3 record in the games Walker started. He was a restricted free agent, but the Panthers did not offer him a contract.

Cap update: Deals for five free agents — linebackers TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds, right guard Nate Davis, defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker and running back Travis Homer — have cut into the Bears’ league-leading salary cap space. But they’re still able to add more players in free agency if they see fit — and they likely will, especially on defense. The market may favor the Bears in the second and third waves of free agency this week and next.

However, the Bears will reserve some cap space for their rookie class and potential extensions for tight end Cole Kmet and receiver Darnell Mooney.

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Outlook: First and foremost, Walker is here to help Fields. That’s the No. 1 job for a backup quarterback. From Josh McCown to Chase Daniel to Siemian, they’ll all tell you. But at 28, Walker is a younger backup option than the 31-year-old Siemian. With Walker added, drafting a quarterback late on Day 3 seems unlikely. The Bears can make changes at other positions, namely their offensive and defensive lines.

(Photo: Bob Donnan / USA Today)

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