The Chicago Bears’ 2020 season was essentially four seasons wrapped into one. Early season highs, mid-season lows, a Mitchell Trubisky tour, and a humbling ending put things into perspective.
Looking ahead, the 2021 offseason could very well dictate the long-term future of the franchise. GM Ryan Pace enters the final year of his contract. He needs to prove he can find a quarterback and unearth offensive skill players. And Head Coach Matt Nagy has two seasons remaining on his deal. But he might not make it to next year if he can’t show that his offense can work. But before we cross those bridges, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into a pivotal offseason for the Bears franchise.
Today: Running back
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
David Montgomery had a strong finish to 2020, collecting his first 1,000-yard rushing season. His season-ending eight-game stretch gives us plenty to dream on moving forward. Extrapolate his numbers in six games after the bye, and they come out to 309 carries, 1,595 yards, 19 touchdowns to go along with 64 catches, 603 receiving yards, and 3 more scores per 16 games. Where do I sign up for THAT!?
Tarik Cohen returns after an ACL injury ended his 2020. It’ll be nice to have Cohen as a rushing option again. But more than that, having the versatility of someone who can catch passes out of the backfield and when lined up in the slot should help diversify the scheme. And let’s not overlook his special teams contributions as a punt returner.
Artavis Pierce was an undrafted free agent rookie who collected a handful of carries. Fellow Oregon State product Ryan Nall re-signed as an exclusive-rights free agent.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
Cordarrelle Patterson is known more for his All-Pro kick returner skills and his role as the Bears’ Director of Recruiting. But he also made contributions as a rusher in spots last year.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
There are no cuts who could create a worthwhile amount of cap space. Nothing to see here, move along.
Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com
TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME DAVID MONTGOMERY HIGHLIGHTS
THE FREE AGENT MARKET INCLUDES…
⇒ Aaron Jones
⇒ Mark Ingram
⇒ Tevin Coleman
⇒ James White
⇒ Leonard Fournette
⇒ Frank Gore
⇒ Duke Johnson
SEVEN DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS
⇒ Travis Etienne, Clemson
⇒ Najee Harris, Alabama
⇒ Michael Carter, North Carolina
⇒ Javonte Williams, North Carolina
⇒ Trey Sermon, Ohio State
⇒ Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma Sate
⇒ Demetric Felton, UCLA
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
It would be nice to have a reliable running game behind no matter who is quarterbacking the Bears in 2021. And while David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen make for a solid start to the room, there’s still a feeling that something is missing.
To be clear, the Bears don’t need to make a splash at the position. For instance, they don’t need to break the bank for Aaron Jones. But having a reliable third option would be a welcome changePerhaps a change-of-pace back on Draft weekend piques Chicago’s interest. Maybe a versatile pass-catcher like James White is someone who fits the scheme. It’s not like there aren’t options to be had on the marrket.
Last year, I warned against going into the season with Montgomery and Cohen as the only viable rushing options. Then Montgomery started the season with limitations due to a training camp groin injury. After that, Cohen suffered that ACL injury in Week 3 against the Falcons. Chicago must guard against the injury bug at a position that takes that many hits. It shouldn’t be a priority, mind you. But the Bears can’t afford to ignore it as they did last season.