By now, it is no secret that the Chicago Bears are projected to have the most cap space next offseason at over $110 million, according to Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap.
This past offseason was rife with ridicule for the Bears’ front office.
They were accused of not doing enough to support second-year passer Justin Fields with either protection or weapons. There were questions about the hiring of a defensive-minded head coach in Matt Eberflus instead of one geared more toward offense and quarterbacks.
Opinions on Bears and Fields are changing. Particularly over the last few weeks and after the team traded another draft pick for a wide receiver. This time it was Chase Claypool after they did so for N’Keal Harry over the summer. Now, ESPN’s Dan Graziano speculated on another possible move for next summer during the November 17 episode of “Get Up” with host Mike Greenberg.
Bears Linked to Giants Star Saquon Barkley by NFL Insider
Leaning Into a Strength
Things have seemingly turned a corner with Fields racking up over 1000 total yards and 13 total touchdowns over the last four weeks. He is completing over 64% of his passes. And he has thrown just two interceptions despite being sacked 13 times in that span.
“You have Justin Fields obviously already there,” Graziano said. “Imagine the two of them together and what that run game would look like and how potentially explosive. I think when people speculate on Saquon…they’ll want to put him on the top offenses, right, as an accent piece…but it would be interesting to see him in a place like Chicago.”
Most scrimmage yards per game:
Saquon Barkley – 125.3 🍎 pic.twitter.com/lwkeA1MExu
— PFF (@PFF) November 17, 2022
The Bears currently lead the league in rushing attempts and yards while ranking seventh in rushing touchdowns.
They have begun to utilize Fields’ legs over the last month with 50 attempts.
But the foundation of the attack has been the combination of David Montgomery and backup Khalil Herbert all season long. That is where things get interesting for the Bears as there are some question marks about both players.
Herbert just went on injured reserve with a hip injury suffered against the Detroit Lions in Week 10. And before that, he had shown to be more effective in a complimentary role than as a starter. He still projects to be solid there as well with improved pass-blocking skills. Montgomery, 25, is in the final year of his contract.
Despite a seven-carry advantage, Montgomery has over 200 fewer rushing yards than Herbert. But the latter’s deficiencies in protection are deal-breakers in enough situations.
They have churned out 1077 combined rushing yards and six touchdowns. Fields leads the team individually with over 700 yards on the ground. What could he do with a talent like Barkley?
Barkley on the Bears
The current landscape of the NFL is you don’t pay running backs. Only six backs are earning an average above $8 million annually, per Spotrac.com data. But, drafted second overall in 2018, Barkley has been a star-level talent since entering the league – one year ahead of Montgomery – and still does almost every time he touches the ball.
He currently leads the league in rushing yards over two-time rushing champ Derrick Henry. He is also second behind the Tennessee Titans star in carries.
— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2022
The Bears got plenty of Barkley when he racked up 143 yards on 31 carries against them in the Giants’ 20-12 Week 4 win this season. He has racked up over 460 rushing yards in five career games against the Bears.
That is more than he has against the Dallas Cowboys who are in the Giants’ division.
Barkley has, however, been the victim of bad luck when it comes to injuries in his career. He has missed anywhere from three to 14 games every year since he played all 16 as a rookie. He also hasn’t broken many tackles this season with just seven to Montgomery’s 13. Not that he has had to since he ranks second in yards before contact — behind only Fields.
Despite that concern, there are reports the Giants want to lock him up.
Bears Balancing Act
The Bears will have enough resources to make the type of investment in Barkley that other teams would blush at and not so much as blink. That doesn’t mean they should even though Barkley is immensely talented. It also does not signal which way they should go on a leader such as Montgomery.
Montgomery has also missed games every season since his rookie year. He has still managed to average 238 carries over his first three years.
Only six players have more carries since Montgomery entered the league through Week 10 of this season; seven have gained more yards on the ground. All of them have gotten second contracts with the team that drafted them except for two – Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts runner Jonathan Taylor. Both are still on their rookie contracts. Jacobs was taken in the same class as Montgomery with a pick the Raiders got from the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade.
He could also be an option after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option, though he only has this year of standout performance. It is just another layer of complexity to the Bears’ upcoming situation.
Embed from Getty Images