Bears general manager Ryan Poles has a lot of work to do this offseason, which includes building around quarterback Justin Fields. Wide receiver is a huge need, and it’s a position that’s surely going to be addressed in free agency and the NFL draft.
Chicago made a move before Sunday’s season finale, signing receiver Equanimeous St. Brown to a one-year contract extension. The Bears certainly appear to appreciate St. Brown’s understanding of the offense and his ability as a blocker and depth piece. He’s the fourth receiver currently under contract heading into 2023.
But what does the receiver situation look like heading into the 2023 offseason? We’re taking a look here:
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Mooney is entering the final year of his rookie deal, where he could very well land an extension before the 2023 regular season begins. Mooney, a former fifth-round pick, has been a valuable contributor since his rookie season. With Allen Robinson departing in free agency, Mooney became the top guy. Mooney was Fields’ top guy, as the two became inseparable this past offseason, but it didn’t exactly translate on the field. He had 40 catches for 493 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. Mooney suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 11 against the Jets.
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The Bears traded their 2023 second-round draft pick to the Steelers to acquire Chase Claypool at the trade deadline. With an underwhelming free agent group of receivers, it’s a move GM Ryan Poles felt like he had to make. Unfortunately, Claypool’s early stint with Chicago has been underwhelming. Claypool, who has 12 catches for 111 yards in six games, struggled with learning a complex offense and dealing with a knee injury. But the hope is that, with an offseason to truly absorb the offense and build a rapport with Fields, that Claypool will be the guy the Bears traded for in November.
Equanimeous St. Brown
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Equanimeous St. Brown was signed last offseason to serve as receiver depth, where he came to Chicago with a knowledge of Luke Getsy’s offense. With injuries and passing game struggles, St. Brown was sometimes the WR1 in this offense, which wasn’t intended. He’s the third-leading receiver for the Bears with 320 yards on 20 catches and one touchdown. Chicago did sign St. Brown to a one-year contract extension, an indication that they’re happy with what they’ve seen. He’s been a reliable run blocker in the NFL’s best run game, brings knowledge of this scheme and is a solid depth piece for next year.
Velus Jones Jr.
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Velus Jones Jr.’s rookie season has been filled with his share of adversity, where he’s struggled to carve out a role on offense and struggled fielding punts on special teams, where there were some notable muffs that cost the Bears earlier this season. In 2022, he has eight carries for 61 yards and six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. But the last few weeks have been encouraging for Jones, who’s showing why he can be a dangerous playmaker on offense or returning kickoffs. Jones has four returns of 40-plus yards in the last six games. But the focus this offseason for him will be proving his worth in this offense.
Position Need: High
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Receiver remains a huge concern for the Bears heading into this 2023 offseason. When you look at young quarterbacks who have taken the next step, the common denominator is landing a No. 1 receiver. There aren’t any available through free agency, which leaves the NFL draft or a potential trade as Poles’ chances to get Fields a playmaker at receiver. This year’s group of wideouts were comprised of cheap options in free agency. One thing’s clear: there can’t be a repeat of 2022.