With the Bears’ wide receiver room already a significant question mark heading into camp, injuries to N’Keal Harry and Byron Pringle aren’t what the doctor ordered for Justin Fields in his sophomore season in Chicago. Pringle is dealing with a quad injury that might cost him much if not all of the preseason and Harry suffering what is reportedly a “severe” high-ankle sprain on Saturday.
While there’s optimism from Head Coach Matt Eberflus that Pringle could be ready for Week 1, this might be a good time for Ryan Poles and the Bears front office to get on the horn with some wide receivers looking for work. Maybe even one with a pretty good résumé before a couple of bumps in the road, like Will Fuller.
Fuller missed nearly the entire 2021 season with the Dolphins due to a bevy of injuries that included a rib sprain and an elbow injury early, and then a broken finger in a Week 4 loss to the Colts that ended his season. And he’s never been able to stay on the field for an entire season (Hey, there’s gotta be a reason he’s still available in the first place, right?).
Fuller was having a career year in 2020 with 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games for the Texans before he was suspended for the remainder of the season for a PED violation, one that Fuller attributed to “prescribed medication” that he believed to be permitted under the NFL’s drug policy.
Prior to that, Fuller played just 11 games in 2019 due to hamstring injuries and missed the bulk of the 2018 season with an ACL injury. Still, when on the field, Fuller has been a proven producer, hauling in 213 catches, 3,136 yards, and 24 touchdowns in 52 NFL starts since being drafted ahead of the 2016 season. That’s good for roughly four catches, 60 yards, and a half-a-touchdown per contest when averaged out.
If Fuller could stay healthy (yes, it’s a big if) this season, I could easily see him putting up 60-70 catches, 1,000 yards, and 7-8 touchdowns. If he can channel his inner 2020 (prior to the PED ban), he could dwarf those numbers.
Fuller signed with Miami for $10 million before the 2021 season, and another injury-riddled season has obviously depleted his value significantly, evidenced by the fact that we’re even discussing this in August.
Last week, Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson was reporting that multiple teams were monitoring the 28-year-old potential deep threat. And that he was likely to sign later in the preseason. Maybe the Bears have an interest in a one-year prove-it deal for Fuller. And for what it’s worth, one national football analyst saw a potential Bears-Fuller fit. I sure would love to see Justin Fields get a deep threat like that in his huddle. It might be time to give the former Notre Dame star a call and see if they can’t get him into camp and work with Fields and Luke Getsy in the new Bears offense.
Aside from Fuller, names like T.Y. Hilton, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Allen Hurns, and DeSean Jackson highlight veteran wideouts still looking for work this season.
Hilton would come with familiarity for Matt Eberflus, with both spending time with the Colts. The 32-year-old Hilton caught 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games for the Colts last season with Carson Wentz as his quarterback in a run-heavy offense that featured a heaping dose of Jonathan Taylor running the ball. If you watched the Colts’ in-season version of HBO’s Hard Knocks last year, Hilton fits what Eberflus is trying to build in the Bears locker room. He might be the perfect addition to a huddle that features Fields prominently.
Spotrac has the Hilton’s market value at $6.2 million. That also happens to be the number it gives Emmanuel Sanders’ market value. Sanders, another prominent free agent, spent last season in Buffalo and caught 42 passes for 626 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games with the Bills.
Honestly, Fuller would be the best fit when it comes to low-risk, high-reward additions at this point, but Hilton and Sanders are also potential fits for this roster if that doesn’t work out.
The Bears have $18,168,046 under the cap to play with, per OverTheCap.com’s calculations. So if Chicago wants to shake up its receivers room, it certainly can.