A 2-4 start to the 2022 season for the Chicago Bears means the future is often on our minds. One thing we’re always cognizant of around here is the team’s future salary cap situation. As things stand today, OverTheCap.com estimates the Bears will have $115,036,523 in available cap space next offseason. What the Bears do with all that cap space will go a long way toward determining this team’s direction.
And, for what it’s worth, one NFL insider is already hearing about one player Chicago’s front office could splurge on as soon as this offseason.
To be clear, the Bears can’t sign wide receiver Darnell Mooney just yet. But NFL reporter Matt Lombardo hears the team and Mooney have a mutual interest in signing an extension to stick around:
As Lombardo notes above, the Bears and Mooney aren’t allowed to sign an extension until the end of this season. But as we saw with Davante Adams in 2017, there is a late-in-the-season window in which a team and a third-year player can come to an agreement on a deal. So, perhaps, that is something to keep in mind down the road.
Mooney, who turns 25 in late October, had his first 1,000-yard receiving campaign in 2021 and established himself as the go-to option for this Bears team moving forward. And while he is off to a slow start in 2022 (17 catches, 241 yards, 0 TD), Mooney’s recent play has been encouraging. Mooney saw a season-high 12 targets in last Thursday’s game. And if you extrapolate the stats from his last three games (13 catches, 214 yards) over a 17-game season, it comes out to 125 targets, 74 catches, and 1,213 receiving yards. Sure, you’d like to see something in that touchdown column. But otherwise, it is easy to make a case for wanting to keep Mooney around.
But at what cost?
We found ourselves exploring the possibility of Mooney playing his way into an extension that could rival one of the deals signed by the big boys this offseason. Terry McLaurin ($20M AAV), Chris Godwin ($20M AAV), Mike Williams ($20M AAV), D.J. Moore ($20.6M AAV), and A.J. Brown ($25M AAV) were among the receivers who signed extensions that paid out more than $20 million per year. That’s the top-of-the-market price teams and players seem to be operating these days. Perhaps Diontae Johnson’s extension with the Steelers (2/$36.71M) is something that pops up when the two sides chop it up and talk shop with regard to a potential Mooney deal.
In the end, I find it to be a good sign that the Bears and Mooney have an interest in an extension. Thursday’s juggling and bobbling aside, Mooney is a receiver on the rise. And his relationship with Justin Fields is something that could grow into something special. QB aside, Mooney already has a reputation for being a team leader and one of the locker room’s hardest workers. The Bears have money to spend, needs at the position, and would do well in showing a willingness to spend in an attempt to help legitimize their rebuild. As for Mooney’s end of things, a popular and productive player getting an extension would be welcome news for the team, fans, and (of course) Mooney. Again, they can’t iron a deal out until later this year. But that things sound like they are in a good place now is wonderful to hear.