The wide receiver position might not be the top priority for the Bears this offseason, but the room needs remodeling.
We’ll discuss the big names and obvious fits in due time, but I have an under-the-radar receiver. Someone who could fit into the Bears’ offense. A target who could do so at a price point that both the organization and fans should be comfortable with if cap concerns dwell on your thoughts. And a player whose projected price tag could allow them to attack other areas of need while adding excellent value to the wide receiver’s room at Halas Hall.
For my money, Dallas Cowboys receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. is that type of guy.
Wilson will be 27 at the start of the 2022 season, and is coming off a break-out year of sorts in Dallas. Due to injuries and COVID-19 issues among an otherwise loaded Cowboys receivers room, Wilson caught 45 passes for 602 yards to go along with six touchdowns in 2021. Relatively speaking, that is a big year — especially after not being a huge part of the offense in past seasons. Prior to the 2021 campaign, Wilson had just 22 catches, 235 receiving yards, and two touchdowns in his first three seasons in Dallas. As Luis pointed out last week, the Cowboys are believed to be aiming to prioritize re-signing wide receiver Michael Gallup this offseason.
If that turns out to be the case, Wilson a sixth-round pick out of Boise State in 2018, will likely hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. And for the Bears, he would make for a cost-efficient option for an offense that doesn’t have many options for Justin Fields to target right now.
With expanded playing time this season, Wilson showed off his skills in the short game.
At 6-2 and 200 pounds, Wilson displayed the shiftiness to gain yards after the catch and win at the line of scrimmage. One area Wilson seems to thrive is on manufactured screen plays. Which, as you might now as a Bears observer, has been a significant void in the Bears offense in recent years. Seriously, do we remember the persistent calls for more designed screens for Fields and friends? And how they on deaf ears? Well, here’s an example of Wilsonputting the whole Chargers defense on skates on a designed screen pass this season.
Cedrick Wilson 👀 pic.twitter.com/Y1NK4ZnfvI
— Joey Hayden (@_joeyhayden) September 19, 2021
In addition to his screen-game excellence, Wilson appears to be solid in the slot. Finding a receiver to consistently operate out of the inside has been a challenge for the Bears in recent years. The Anthony Miller pick didn’t pan out. Allen Robinson II had his moments working that area, but he is set to depart in free agency. Taylor Gabriel, who would let it be known that he isn’t just a slot guy, didn’t last long with the Bears due to concussions cutting short his time with the team. In other words, finding a slot option could be helpful for Fields.
The Bears ranked 30th in the NFL in red-zone scoring percentage (47.9). Getting better there would be good for the Bears, as well as Fields’ development. Unfortunately, only Darnell Mooney (3), Jimmy Graham (3), and Jesper Horstead (2) had more than one red-zone touchdown catch in 2021. Perhaps Wilson could help matters. Wilson had a 66.6 percent catch rate and three touchdowns in the red zone this season. Only tight end Dalton Schultz and receiver Amari Cooper were better for the Cowboys in that area of the field.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott found Cedrick Wilson for this 2-yard TD vs. Cardinals. Per @NextGenStats, that was Dak's 22nd TD pass against the blitz this season. 7 more than any other QB.pic.twitter.com/ugSXnGgjU3
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 6, 2022
Let’s check out some more Wilson highlights:
— Dallas Cowboys Collaboration (@mailman_phil) January 24, 2022
COOPER RUSH 🚀 CEDRICK WILSON
— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2021
Wilson dusted Vikings’ corner Mackensie Alexander. And Alexander is no slouch. He ranked 10th among qualifying corners in catches allowed, according to PFF. Plus, he ran the 40-yard-dash at his 2016 Pro Day in 4.4 seconds. That’s impressive speed. And it was equally impressive of a burn by Wilson to get this one into the end zone.
Let’s give that catch some added perspective:
Cooper Rush & Cedrick Wilson (73-yd TD)
Rush finds Wilson on a post route 23 yards downfield with 3.0 yards of separation. Wilson (50 YAC) was expected to gain 37 yards after catch according to our xYAC model, and had a 17.6% of scoring a TD at catch.#DALvsMIN | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/XMZiq1LbIv
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 1, 2021
NFL’s Next-Gen Stats had Wilson with a 17.6 percent chance of scoring a touchdown at the point of catch. But the three yards of separation at the catch point and the speed after the catch allowed him to rack up 50 yards after the catch for a touchdown.
So, what’s the cost of doing business?
Pro Football Focus pegs Wilson’s next contract to be a two-year deal worth $11 that includes $7 million in guarantees. With an average annual value of $5.5 million, Wilson is a relative bargain. That estimation puts Wilson to land in that third wave of free agency. Fittingly enough, that is an area where new GM Ryan Poles is looking to extract significant value this offseason. With the Bears trying to do as much as they can with what cap flexibility they have, Wilson makes sense as a perfect under-the-radar name to watch for the Bears.
Let’s peruse some more highlights:
The Dak to Cedrick Wilson touchdown.pic.twitter.com/WroRuCTwO6
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 27, 2020
Here’s Wilson hitting the circle button in Madden:
DAK WITH HIS FOURTH TD, CEDRICK WILSON WITH THE SPIN MOVE. pic.twitter.com/HbMNgMT19g
— The 60FPS & GIF Guy (@IHaveFourBalls) October 3, 2021
I can hear Chris Berman delivering a resounding signature “Whoop!” after watching Wilson put 2020 second-rounder Jeremy Chinn in the spin cycle.
Bottom line: Wilson showed this season that he has all the tools to be a big-play receiver if you can get him the ball.
Let’s circle back to that matchup with the Vikings on Halloween. It turns out Wilson can sling it, too:
Just put Cedrick Wilson at QB
— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2021
That wasn’t the first time Dallas used him as a passer in a trick play, either. Wison is 5-of-5 for 111 yards and a touchdown over the past two seasons for Dallas:
Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson has caught a touchdown, a 2-point conversion and five other balls in addition to completing a pass for 31 yards
It’s Cedrick’s world, we’re all just living in itpic.twitter.com/XcNs8zSlUb
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 3, 2022
Let’s recap the boxes Wilson checks:
YAC Threat: ✅
Red Zone Threat: ✅
Wilson won’t be on the top of many people’s free-agency wishlists or big boards, and the track record isn’t there beyond the 2021 season. But that’s a good thing for the Bears if they’re looking to add a high-value, low-cost option to Fields’ disposal of weapons in 2022.