Bears 2023 free agency preview: Will David Montgomery return to Chicago?

NFL free agency will be here before we know it, and the Chicago Bears have plenty of players set to hit the market. From key starters to valuable reserves, general manager Ryan Poles will have important decisions to make about who to bring back.

Here at Bears Wire, we’re going through each individual player and breaking down their 2022 performance and whether or not they fit in the Bears’ long-term plans.

First up is running back David Montgomery, the starting running back for the last four seasons and arguably the team’s most intriguing free agent.

2022 stats

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  • 201 carries, 801 rushing yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns

  • 34 receptions, 316 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

2022 review

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Going into the 2022 season, Montgomery was arguably the most consistent player on offense. He’s a running back who won’t blow anyone away, but will almost always get the tough yards with his punishing running style. Montgomery contributed to the Bears’ historic rushing output in 2022, though he was the third-leading rusher behind quarterback Justin Fields (1,143) and running back Khalil Herbert (731).

Still, though he wasn’t as flashy as those other players, Montgomery was as steady as they come. He was depended on to pick up the short yards in crucial situations and was easily the best pass blocking back of the bunch. That alone made him a valued member of the offense, considering the offensive line had a tough time keeping Fields upright. Montgomery was also a key weapon out of the backfield, totaling the fourth-most receiving yards on the team.

Positional need: Moderate

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Given the Bears’ commitment to the run under offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, fortifying the running back position should be a priority for Poles this offseason. But given other needs on the offensive and defensive line and the fact Herbert can hold his own as a starter, it’s not the biggest priority.

Still, the Bears can’t roll into the 2023 season with Herbert and Trestan Ebner, the only two running backs currently under contract and will need to pick up another player in free agency and possibly the draft. Herbert, while a dynamic runner with incredible vision, struggles in pass protection. The Bears will need a back who can fill that void if Montgomery leaves.

The future

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Montgomery’s future in Chicago remains cloudy heading into free agency. The Bears are flush with cash and he’s their most high-profile free agent that’s set to hit the market. But does that mean an extension is in the works? The old saying goes NFL teams should not pay top dollar for veteran running backs, but we could be seeing a changing of the guard in some respects.

Veterans such as Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Josh Jacobs, three of the best running backs set to hit free agency this spring, all have a significant chance of returning to their original teams whether that’s due to an extension or the franchise tag. If that were to happen, Montgomery would have more of a market, but it also limits other options for the Bears.

Regardless, here does seem to be mutual interest in a reunion, though. Montgomery has expressed his desire to return and has become a team leader during his tenure. General manager Ryan Poles also stated his respect and admiration for Montgomery and that he would like him back next season during his end-of-year press conference in January. “I’ve always wanted to keep David,” Poles said. “I love his mentality, how he plays the game.”

Poles loves Montgomery, but said the value needs to be beneficial. “Now, the second part of that is just the contract situation,” Poles said. “That’s something that we’ll see how that goes and if we can find common ground. Obviously, I’ve learned that you can want a player and the value’s got to come together for it to happen.”

2023 free agency profiles

We’re highlighting the Bears’ most notable free agents set to hit the open market in March:

David Montgomery

Nicholas Morrow (2/21)

N’Keal Harry (2/22)

DeAndre Houston-Carson (2/23)

Riley Reiff (2/24)

Byron Pringle (2/25)

Sam Mustipher (2/26)

Patrick Scales (2/27)

Khari Blasingame (2/28)

Angelo Blackson (3/1)

Matt Adams (3/2)

Michael Schofield (3/3)

Mike Pennel (3/4)

Joe Thomas (3/5)

Armon Watts (3/6)

Dane Cruikshank (3/7)

Ryan Griffin (3/8)

Josh Blackwell (3/9)

Dante Pettis (3/10)


Story originally appeared on Bears Wire