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Former 1,000-Yard Receiver Likely To Leave In Free Agency

Wide receiver Darnell Mooney will likely leave the Chicago Bears in free agency after two disappointing seasons with Matt Eberflus.
Darnell Mooney Free Agency

The Chicago Bears are entering a new era, and that could mean a new home for Darnell Mooney in free agency. With over $82 million in cap space and (presumably) a new quarterback in Caleb Williams, head coach Matt Eberflus will finally have the chance to truly build the Bears roster in his image.

So far, that image has not included Mooney. A fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Tulane product thrived under former head coach Matt Nagy. Mooney wildly outplayed his draft stock as a rookie, recording 61 receptions for 631 yards and four touchdowns despite terrible quarterback play. He improved in 2021, finishing the year with 81 receptions for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns on 140 somewhat accurate targets.

However, with Matt Eberflus calling the shots, Darnell Mooney hits free agency after two disappointing seasons. Over the past two years, the wide receiver has averaged just 35 receptions and 453 yards per season. While Chicago’s run-heavy ways certainly haven’t helped, it’s safe to assume that, for whatever reason, Mooney just isn’t a fit with Eberflus.

Darnell Mooney Likely To Leave In Free Agency, Should Have Suitors

Darnell Mooney isn’t going to break the bank in free agency, but he should have a decent market. With Tee Higgins already receiving the franchise tag and Michael Pittman a strong candidate to receive the designation, this means that Mike Evans will probably be the top option on the open market. After Evans, however, there is a clear drop in talent.

Calvin Ridley and Marquise Brown are still probably going to get more than Darnell Mooney, but there is a case to be made that he is the fourth- or fifth-best wide receiver set to hit free agency. He’s in the same tier as guys like Gabriel Davis and Curtis Samuel and should be compensated appropriately. Seeing as there are not enough good wide receivers to go around, these five teams should be interested in adding the former fifth-round pick.

Best Possible Fits

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs make a lot of sense for a whole lot of reasons. First off, they’re going to need some more wide receivers, especially since Marquez Valdes-Scantling is probably going to be cut. Additionally, current offensive coordinator Matt Nagy clearly knows how to use Mooney, as he turned him into a 1,000-yard receiver with the Chicago Bears. If the Chiefs can’t afford to sign someone like Mike Evans in free agency, then Darnell Mooney makes perfect sense as a plug-and-play starter in this offense.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots need help at just about offensive position, but what they desperately need is speed. While rookie Demario Douglas showed some burst last year, he’s not capable of doing everything all on his own. Tyquan Thornton has done nothing through his first two years in the league, so the Patriots could sign Darnell Mooney in free agency to be the deep threat in this offense. While he also won’t save this team all by himself, he will make life a little bit easier for whoever is under center next year.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints have a young star in Chris Olave, but they don’t have much else at wide receiver. Rashid Shaheed is good in small doses, but Darnell Mooney still makes sense as a cost-effective signing in free agency. Mooney runs a more complete route tree and, with Michael Thomas almost certainly gone, will provide another target for the recently restructured Derek Carr.

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills are in salary cap hell, so they might not be able to afford Darnell Mooney in free agency. However, if Mooney is available on the cheap, he’d be a perfect fit in this offense. Stefon Diggs is slowing down, and the Bills need somebody capable of stretching the field. Josh Allen has perhaps the strongest arm in the league and should be able to connect with Mooney at any point of the field. As mentioned earlier, Mooney and Davis are in the same tier of free agents. Chances are, Buffalo will try and sign whichever player is cheaper.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers will cut Mike Williams any day now, saving $20 million in cap space but also creating a glaring need at wide receiver. With Quentin Johnston failing to meet expectations as a rookie, the Chargers need to do something to get the most out of Justin Herbert. This team needs speed, and Darnell Mooney makes perfect sense in free agency. Mooney’s 4.38 speed is a perfect match for Herbert’s arm, and while Williams won downfield by just being bigger than everyone, Mooney can win by being faster.

Main Photo: Mike Dinovo – USA Today Sports


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