Steelers have an obvious decision with Justin Fields' fifth-year option

The Steelers can lock up Justin Fields through the 2025 season, but at what cost?

Nov 8, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) warms up
Nov 8, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) warms up / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After signing Russell Wilson, Steelers fans were astonished to see that Justin Fields was also joining the team. This decision came during the aftermath of the trade that sent former first-round pick, Kenny Picket, to the Eagles.

As soon as the 2023 season ended, there was speculation that the Steelers could wind up with Fields. Back then, however, there were rumors that the receiving team would need to give up a 2nd-round pick to acquire his services for the 2024 season.

Ultimately, the price was right, and the Steelers pounced to trade for Justin Fields at the cost of just a 6th-round pick in 2025 (that could turn into a fourth-rounder if Fields plays at least 51 percent of the team's offensive snaps in 2024).

Now that the dust has settled on this trade and Justin Fields is officially a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, fans are wondering what the plan will be for the young quarterback. More specifically, will the team pick up his fifth-year option? This is a decision that must be made by May 2nd.

After doing some simple math, this decision feels like an easy one for Pittsburgh.

Steelers should decline Justin Fields' fifth-year option

While the Justin Fields trade was processing, Mike Tomlin called Russell Wilson to ensure that Wilson would be the starting quarterback during the 2024 season. This is the first sign that Fields shouldn't get the fifth-year option, but it's certainly not the only one.

The biggest reason the Steelers should decline Fields' fifth-year option is because the market for him was already incredibly small. This can be traced back as far as the 2021 NFL Draft.

While many draft experts were high on Fields entering the draft, Zach Wilson -- a one-year wonder from BYU -- was the second quarterback taken after Trevor Lawrence. Then it was Trey Lance whom the 49ers traded three first-round picks to go up and get with the third overall pick; not Fields. Eventually, Chicago moved up to take Fields with the 11th overall pick, and it's hard to say how much further he could have fallen.

Fast forward three years and the trade market for Fields proved to be incredibly small. Though there were teams reportedly interested in trading for the toolsy quarterback, none were willing to come close to the Bears' initial asking price of a 2nd-round pick.

According to Over the Cap, the fifth-year option for Justin Fields is projected to come in at $25,664,000 in 2025. In comparison to other mid-level starting quarterbacks, this is a respectable fee. It's almost identical to the $25 million in yearly value that QB Geno Smith is receiving as a 35-year-old in 2024, and it's not even close to as much as underwhelming quarterbacks like Derek Carr and Daniel Jones average to make per year (both are in the $37 million to $40 million range).

However, knowing how little interest Fields has drawn from other NFL teams, there is no reason for the Steelers to throw this kind of money -- which is fully guaranteed -- at a quarterback who may not even get a chance to start in 2024.

Fields might be able to unseat Wilson as the starting quarterback at some point this year. Unfortunately, the decision with the fifth-year option needs to be made long before training camp. Even if Fields finds himself in a starting role with the Steelers late in the 2024 season and performs well, teams aren't likely to change their initial assessment of a player if the jump in performance isn't monumental.

In other words, if the Steelers wish to retain Justin Fields beyond the 2024 season, it would make more financial sense to lock him up to a multi-year deal than to give him the fifth-year option. There's not a chance that Fields will make more than $25.664 million annually on the open market next year if he is only the starter for a partial season in 2024, and just a percentage of his new contract would be guaranteed.

NFL teams have shown you what they thought of Justin Fields since the moment he was drafted, and there's not likely to be a bidding war for Fields in free agency next year. The Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise to decline the fifth-year option and pursue a new contract with Fields in 2025 if he proves he deserves a chance as their starter.