It is no secret that the Bears need wide receiver help. And plenty of it.
With that being said, we should be mindful of what the receiver market will look like next offseason. And while we’ve seen some options go off the board (most recently, the notable extension Terry McLaurin signed in Washington comes to mind), others still could make it to free agency. If they do, then the Bears should squarely position themselves to make a run at such players. One player certainly climbing up my list is Diontae Johnson, the Steelers’ standout receiver who might be pricing himself out of Pittsburgh.
In answering mailbag questions from fans, Mark Kaboly (The Athletic) doesn’t envision the Steelers ponying up to keep Johnson the way the Commanders did to lock in McLaurin:
“They aren’t offering him anything near McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year. They will offer him something, and it won’t be what he thinks he can get on the market, and he will get paid somewhere else.”
Hello, there! Can that “somewhere else” be Chicago?
The Bears have an obvious need that can’t be overstated. And we’ll continue to drive it home until it is no longer an obvious need. Moving along, OverTheCap.com’s latest projections estimate Chicago to have $97,682,076 in cap space next offseason. That is ample spending money for Poles to plug all sorts of holes throughout the roster. Particularly one that we’ve been begging them to fix for years. So long as the Bears have cap space and needs, we’ll continue banging the table to make an impact move.
Maybe the Steelers won’t give Johnson a salary that pays him in the $20 million per year ballpark. And because the Bears fancy themselves as trying to model their organization after what Pittsburgh has built, it is fair to wonder if they would do so if given the opportunity. Remember, Allen Robinson II was seeking a similar multi-year extension before he left as a free agent last offseason. But perhaps a different front office could nudge ownership toward making that type of financial commitment to a receiver. After all, the Bears look to be in a position to do something like that if the fit is right. And it is easy to make a case for Johnson being a good fit in Chicago moving forward.
Johnson, who turns 26 today, is coming off a Pro Bowl year in 2021. It was an impressive season, one in which he put up 107 catches, 1,161 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns. The Pro Bowl campaign was a strong follow up to the 88-catch, 923-yard, 7-TD season he had in 2020. Johnson has gotten better every year. Hence, a big pay day is looming. Even if it doesn’t come from the Steelers.
So, again, I ask — why not the Bears?
Sure, Justin Fields has confidence in the group first-year GM Ryan Poles has put together for the 2022 season. And because Fields is willing to cook with whatever ingredients he gets, I won’t put it past him to make it work for this season. Even still … glancing at the bigger picture reminds us this group will look different soon. Let’s keep in mind that newbies Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, and Dante Pettis are on one-year contracts. Only Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones Jr. are projected starters who figure to be here long-term. Which is why we’ll continue eagerly peeking at who could be available to join them this time next year.