Going into the Bears’ off-season, there will be a whopping 30 free agents. Most of these guys will be no-brainers to come back since most of the woes last season were on the offense versus the defense. With a rollover cap of almost $10 million and the number one overall draft pick, there are a lot of options for the Bears leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Quarterback Justin Fields will be going into his third year with the team, last season was his first year as the starter. The Bears don’t technically need another quarterback at pick one so it’ll be interesting to see if they sell the number one overall pick, trade Fields, or keep them both. It’s no mystery that the Bears need a new identity at wide receiver. Lone wolf Darnell Mooney can’t carry the team as a lead receiver.
Byron Pringle, Bears Wide Receiver
The Bears had hopes that Byron Pringle, who had shown flashes with the Kansas City Chiefs, would be a solid contributor to the Bears’ offense were left with a busted wide receiver. Pringle signed a $4.125 one-year contract with the Bears in the off-season last year. Well, he played in more games than he had receptions on the season, such a waste of money. Byron had ten receptions on 16 targets for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
It wasn’t all his fault as he was injured throughout the year and his quarterback didn’t trust him or really anyone to catch the ball. At the age of 29 and with no real sign of positive production last season, there’s no real point in keeping Pringle on for another year. Pringle will find a team to sign with but it’ll be a low-dollar contract for a depth spot as he looks to revive his career.
N’Keal Harry, Bears Wide Receiver
N’Keal Harry was just a flat-out poor decision overall for the Bears coaching staff. Harry has never played a full season in his time in the NFL and in the one year where he almost played every game, he barely cracked 30 receptions. In a sense, it was worth the $2.5 million one-year contract to see if there was anything the 25-year-old could do but after injuring his ankle in Bears’ training camp in early August, he was once again a bust.
N’Keal had an ankle injury in early August that sidelined him until mid-October after he had surgery. From there, the ankle injury never really went away and he also had a lingering back injury that kept him on the sidelines. Mix those two with illnesses, he wasn’t on the field much. In his first and what should be last season in Chicago, he had seven receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown. If he goes unclaimed this off-season, maybe stash him on the practice squad and see if he can last a season down there.
Ryan Griffin, Bears Tight End
Time for another failed offensive weapon for the Bears. Griffin hasn’t really been “that” guy since he left the Houston Texans after the 2018 season. He has mainly backfilled as the secondary tight end and performed well when needed but the Bears are not the team for him, he needs a team that is well-balanced on offense. These two are not meant to be together. The Bears should let Griffin fly away to a team that he can support at the age of 33 if he wants to play another year.
Griffin had signed a one-year deal with the Bears last off-season for $2.25 million to be the backup tight end to Cole Kmet. Kmet has had his ups and downs but Chicago needs a younger and more athletic backup to push Kmet and compete. In 15 games last season, Griffin had four receptions on eight targets for 26 yards. Almost $100,000 per yard, is not a bad deal for Griffin.
David Montgomery, Bears Running Back
After being drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft, David Montgomery has been successful in the Windy city although he’s seen plenty of quarterbacks under center in his time. Even with the huge turnover, he has still found success. Over the last four years on his rookie contract, he has posted four 1,000-plus yard seasons between rushing and receiving. He enters the offseason as a free agent. Rather than the Bears just slapping the franchise tag on him, they have more than enough money to sign Montgomery to a long-term contract.
Going into his fifth year in the league, his market value will be a three-year contract worth approximately $21.6 million. An average yearly salary of around $7.2 million. If Chicago were to give Montgomery this offer and he accepted it, it would place him in the top 12 paid running backs just behind Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers. Behind Montgomery on the depth chart are Khalil Herbert and Trestan Ebner. Herbert flashed great potential in his second year in the league and could push Montgomery off the team as Chicago looks to rebuild. If this were to happen, Montgomery would find a new team quickly.
Chicago Bears Front Office: Who Should Stay And Who Should Go?
Chicago’s front office will be busy this off-season as they sort through which of the 30 free agents proved their worth and should return for another year and who should pack their bags and leave the Windy City. I expect the front office to retain a high number of free agents just because they need them and the Bears have a lot of room money-wise. Key areas to improve on are wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, offensive guard, edge, and defensive tackle. The Bears will need a major overhaul in order to compete with the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings next season.