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Bears explain why D'Andre Swift was free agency priority for them this offseason

Bears explain why D'Andre Swift was free agency priority for them this offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears shed light on one of their more surprising moves of the offseason on Tuesday. At the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, head coach Matt Eberflus explained why the team not only signed running back D’Andre Swift in free agency, but made his signing a priority.

“We just felt that we wanted a home-run hitter there,” said Eberflus. “I think D’Andre brings that. We wanted a weapon back – a guy who could be a weapon out of the backfield.”

The Bears utilized three running backs last year with various degrees of success. Khalil Herbert entered the year as the starter, but got hurt in the early goings. It took him until Week 16 to regain his form. D’Onta Foreman ran the ball with the best blend of physicality and elusiveness last year, but his lack of special teams prowess led him to be a healthy scratch in several weeks. Rookie Roschon Johnson rushed with authority at times, but he never hit 40 yards in a game.

Each man had his strengths. Each man had his weaknesses.

Foreman is out of the picture now, so it was expected that the Bears would add someone to compete alongside Herbert and Johnson. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron emphasizes the run game and his Seahawks used second-round picks to draft Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet in back-to-back years. That type of investment in the position is not typical across the NFL.

However, Swift was not a man on peoples’ radars in Chicago. In hindsight, it makes sense. The Bears’ running back by committee approach worked best when one man was down, and another took the reins for the day. It would stand to reason they wanted a lead back to take the majority of the snaps in 2024.

Looking at the free agent contracts for Saquon Barkely (three years, $37 million) and Josh Jacobs (four years, $48 million) all but confirms the Bears were priced out at the top of the market. Poles is disciplined when doling out money and does not spend far out of his value buckets. So we look at the next tier of free agent options. Swift is right there, and his three-year, $24 million deal is more in line with what was expected for a Bears running back contract.

Further, Swift has the skillset to operate as a lead back, week in and week out. Specifically, Eberflus pointed to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

“I think he had 49 catches last year or 50 and he brings that,” Eberflus said. “He’s got tremendous speed. You can feel that when he is running the football but you can definitely feel that as a pass catcher.

“I know that in situational football it’s very difficult to be able to have the two guys outside covered, two tight ends covered, and then you got another situation where you have the weapon back inside. So that was critical.”

The Lions drafted Swift in the second round of the 2020 draft, but he never reached the expectations that come with that draft slot while working alongside Jamaal Williams. In 2023 the Lions traded Swift to the Eagles, and it was in Philly where Swift finally enjoyed a breakout season. Last year, Swift carried the ball 229 times for 1,049 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 219 receiving yards and one score. For his efforts, Swift earned his first Pro Bowl bid last season.

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