Bears 2022 free agency preview: Time’s up for Jimmy Graham

Free agency is just around the corner, and Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles has plenty of work to do with this roster. There are some important decisions he has to make about who to add to the current roster and which pending free agents to retain heading into 2022.

Looking ahead to free agency, we’re breaking down every Bears free agent’s 2021 season, including the team’s need at the position and predicting whether they stay or go in free agency.

Up next is Jimmy Graham who despite making one of the plays of the year, probably overstayed his welcome in Chicago and will more than likely be on his way out of town come March.

2021 stats

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  • 23 targets, 14 receptions for 167 yards (11.9 yards per reception), 3 touchdowns

2021 review

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Outside of trading up to draft Justin Fields last April, the Bears’ decision to keep Graham on the team might have been the most shocking move of the offseason in 2021. Graham had one year remaining on his two-year, $16 million deal he signed in 2020 and seemed destined to be cut. But the Bears held onto the former star tight end, giving him a reserve role behind Cole Kmet. Through the first half of the season, Graham had just one reception and was a nonfactor in the passing game. He eventually saw some targets and made a few nice plays late in the season, particularly in the redzone. His season highlight came when he caught the tying touchdown pass from Nick Foles against his former team, the Seattle Seahawks. But 2021 was easily his worst season as a pro. The best way to sum it all up is that Graham had more veteran rest days (15) during the season than actual catches (14).

Positional need: Low

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The Bears would be wise to add to their tight end group, but it’s clear who the starter is going forward and the team has more pressing needs on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Cole Kmet took a significant step forward last season, finishing second on the team in receptions (60) and receptions (612). The Bears also have better options at the position if they want to re-sign some players. Tight ends Jesse James and Jesper Horsted are free agents as well, but both could provide depth and some upside in the passing game, while also being more versatile than Graham. Another player, J.P. Holtz, is a restricted free agent and can be an asset on special teams. Tight end will be addressed, but it’s just not a top priority.

The future

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You never want to say never, but everyone, including Graham, knows he is as good as gone. The Bears overpaid for him two years ago in a desperate attempt to fix their tight end position before they drafted Kmet. Graham had some nice moments in his two years in Chicago, but he will be 36 next fall and is a one-trick pony at this point in his career. If he’s not posting up in the endzone for a fade, then he might as well be on the bench. Really, Graham won’t even be missed on the field as much as he will off of it. He was the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and does phenomenal work in the community. In a funny way, however, he’ll also be giving back to the Bears as well seeing as $4.6 million will be counted as dead money next season thanks to former general manager Ryan Pace restructuring his deal.

2022 free agency previews

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Bears GM Ryan Poles has some big decisions to make this offseason, including some in-house players set to hit free agency. Here’s a look at the free agents we’ll be profiling:

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