Why Bears, Ryan Poles may and may not re-sign David Montgomery

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Why Bears may and may not re-sign David Montgomery originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

As the Bears finish their evaluations of the 2022 season and turn their eyes towards 2023, one of the first things they’ll do is determine who should stay and who should go. After a 3-14 campaign, there should be significant turnover on the roster. Too many players didn’t play at a high enough level and need to be replaced. On the other hand, others proved that they bought into Ryan Poles’ and Matt Eberflus’ vision for the franchise, performed well on Sundays and earned a job moving forward. Based on how Poles gushed about Cole Kmet, it’s safe to assume he’ll be a part of the Bears’ long term plans. We can assume most of the other young players will stick around too as the team continues to build its foundation. The biggest question could be if David Montgomery returns.

Montgomery will be an unrestricted free agent this spring and he’s coming off a season in which he clearly proved his value to the team. But modern NFL thinking says it’s unwise to sign running backs to lucrative second contracts. That’s a difficult balance Poles will have to weigh over the coming months.

“I’ve always wanted to keep David,” Poles said. “I love his mentality, how he plays the game. I told him that to his face. He’s part of the identity that we had this year that kept us competitive. Now, the second part of that is just the contract situation. That’s something that we’ll see how that goes and if we can find common ground.”

For his part, Montgomery made it clear he’d like to stay in Chicago too.

“I love playing here,” Montgomery said after the final game of the season. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can and everything I could. We’re just gonna see what’s next, but I appreciate all the Bears fans and everyone who’s supported me and hopefully I’m still here. It’s definitely emotional.

“This is a place, organization, a loving organization. I don’t know if you find any other places like this.”

The Bears started with Montgomery as their bellcow back, but about halfway through the year he began splitting carries with Herbert. As things continued to progress, the Bears toyed with more defined roles for their two backs. Montgomery proved his value in short yardage situations, as a superior pass blocker and pass catcher. He also did well when the Bears worked their way into the low red zone. As the year went on, it became clear that the Bears offense was better with both Montgomery and Herbert. Montgomery finished the 2022 season with 801 rushing yards with a 4.0 YPC average and five rushing touchdowns. He added 34 catches for 316 yards and another score. That gives him 3,609 rushing yards with a 3.9 YPC average and 26 touchdowns over his four-year career, to go with 155 receptions for 1,240 yards and four receiving touchdowns.

Beyond the stats, Montgomery continued to emerge as a leader in the locker room and on the field. There were several games this season where the Bears offense looked sluggish or ineffective, but Montgomery continued to run hard and fight for every yard. He was a tone setter for the rest of the team in those moments, and others fed off of his energy. That’s exactly the type of player Poles and Eberflus want to keep in Halas Hall.

“I love the way he attacked this season,” Poles said. “That’s a guy that does everything right. You all watched his tenacity, his fight. I’m a big David Montgomery fan.”

Poles also reiterated he will remain disciplined with the salary cap. He’s not going to spend willy-nilly just because the Bears have tons of cash at hand. Poles alluded to the need to sign deals that make sense for the overall goals of the franchise by referring back to the team’s decision to part ways with Roquan Smith, rather than signing him to a record-breaking deal.

“Obviously, I’ve learned that you can want a player and the value’s got to come together for it to happen.”

Montgomery’s situation isn’t the same as Smith’s however, even though neither man plays a “premium” position. Smith was looking to reset the market for off-ball linebackers. Montgomery won’t do the same for running backs. Further, the market for a player like Smith is very different than it is for running backs. Montgomery will hit free agency alongside big names like Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, Devin Singletary and Damien Harris. With so many guys in the mix, Montgomery’s price could land in a range that fits the Bears’ plans.

We still don’t know much about Poles as a GM, but we do know a few things. He’s disciplined when it comes to spending, isn’t afraid to make franchise-altering moves and highly values players whose character matches up with the culture he and Eberflus are trying to build. It will be interesting to see how all those factors play out in negotiations with Montgomery’s camp, and which factors ultimately win out.

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