Here's What a Darnell Mooney Contract Extension Could Look Like

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Here’s What a Darnell Mooney Contract Extension Could Look Like

Chicago Bears

I think Darnell Mooney’s season-ending injury is mucking up how we, as a Bears-loving fandom, discuss the potential of an extension with the team.

After reading the latest from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, I’m open to revisiting those conversations.

Mooney, 25, is coming off an injury-shortened season in which he caught just 40 passes for 493 yards in 12 games. And while that might ding him in extension talks, it doesn’t prevent those conversations entirely.

Barnwell even goes as far as to outline what an extension could look like based on recent contracts given to Christian Kirk, Mike Williams, and D.J. Moore (bold emphasis mine):

Kirk’s four-year, $72 million extension is credited for pushing forward the wideout market, but I don’t think his deal was the only one in the mix. Mike Williams, a differently sized deep threat for the Chargers, inked a three-year, $60-million pact just before free agency last year, while Moore signed a three-year, $61.8 million deal with the Panthers. With the cap rising, a Mooney extension likely would land at three years in that $60 million ballpark, even if he doesn’t have the timing of Williams or the track record of Moore.

That number is a bit jarring. Giving a receiver $20 million per year who has just one 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt seems awfully risky. Then again, Chicago has more space under the cap than anyone in the league. It’s almost to the point where it’s so much that you don’t really know what to do with it. And it’s not as if Chase Claypool’s arrival made Mooney expendable.

The Bears should approach Mooney with a fair offer. Perhaps something in that range (maybe like the Diontae Johnson deal can be the framework?) would work for both sides. Johnson’s extension (a two-year deal worth $36.71 million) comes out to $18.355 million per year. That type of framework could be something everyone can agree on in terms of giving a player new money and protecting against risk. After all, contract extensions are partly a reward for your past work and a forecast of what the expectations are moving forward.

Keep in mind that Mooney entered the 2022 season coming off of an 81-catch, 1,055-yard season in 2021. Yes, I understand Mooney didn’t take that big leap we were hoping for in 2022. However, it was looking like he was turning it around after a slow start. After catching just four passes for 27 yards in his first three games, Mooney averaged 4.5 catches and 58.3 receiving yards in the 8 games that followed. Mooney’s ascent coinciding with Justin Fields’ climb isn’t all that coincidental to me. Not one bit.

The way I see it, those two were starting to get comfortable in the offense and things were starting to click. If you were to extrapolate Mooney’s numbers from that 8-game stretch over a full 17 game season, it would look like this:

  • 106 targets
  • 76 receptions
  • 990 yards
  • 4 touchdowns

And if you were to do the same for Fields, his full-season numbers would look like this:

  • 240/389 (61.8% completion pct.)
  • 2,858 pass yards
  • 23 TD, 8 INT
  • 95.1 passer rating

Tack on the extrapolated rushing stats (202 rushes, 1,570 yards, 13 TDs) and we’re looking at a legitimate dual threat quarterback (Fields) trending upward at the same time as his favorite target (Mooney). How could you not want to keep these guys together? Moreover, I’d venture to guess it might be riskier to not get a deal done with Mooney. If put together in the right way, a three-year deal in the $18-20 million range wouldn’t be prohibitive in the long haul. Sure, it’ll take work. But we’re Bears fans, which means we should know that nothing comes easy to this franchise.

In the end, Mooney and Fields showed the type of development we were hoping to see coming into the season. And if the team is truly investing in Fields, it can emphasize it by extending his favorite receiver. Maybe moving to the same agency as Fields will help matters. Can’t hurt, could help. Right? Sure, we didn’t see the Fields-Mooney tandem hit the highest highs in 2022. But there were moments last season that had me thinking about keeping the Fields-Mooney duo intact for the foreseeable future. I want to see more. Don’t you?

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.