How the Jones and Barkley News Might've Thrown Bears Offseason Plans for a Loop

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How the Jones and Barkley News Might’ve Thrown Bears Offseason Plans for a Loop

Chicago Bears

Can’t believe so much bad (stuff) can happen on such a beautiful day.

It’s a line from the movie Blue Streak, which features Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, a young Dave Chappelle, and others in a buddy cop comedy that goes down among my all-time faves. Lawrence plays a jewel thief who disguises himself as a detective in order to get a diamond he stashed in a police station. I think it is a fun movie and actually makes for something fun to have on in the background if you need noise on a work-from-home day.

But that’s not why you’re here. Although, the line came to mind when I saw the news that the New York Giants were signing quarterback Daniel Jones to an extension and giving running back Saquon Barkley the Franchise Tag. That double dip of bad news will have a ripple effect on the offseason — and may have thrown a wrench in plans the Bears might’ve had brewing.

Let’s discuss the ramifications.

Saquon Barkley is off the market

Let’s keep it simple. Barkley getting the Franchise Tag keeps the offensive player with the best résumé and most potential moving forward from hitting free agency. The fit with the Bears would’ve been perfect. Yes, I understand that paying free-agent running backs is risky. And sure, I understand why it is unpopular — particularly from analytically driven fans. But Barkley isn’t like any other running back. Sure, I suppose the Bears can unearth a useful running back on Day 3 of the upcoming NFL Draft. It happens every year. Heck, Chicago’s most productive running back last year was a Day 3 pick from their 2021 draft class. However, the Bears shouldn’t be looking to add a “useful” piece. This team should be looking to add playmakers, game-breakers, and game-changers — regardless of the offensive position. That should be the front office’s goal.

So instead of having the potential to add a playmaker who could add another dynamic to Chicago’s offense, the Bears watch Barkley return to New York thanks to Daniel Jones. Go figure.

No Barkley means free agency funds can go elsewhere

All right, so the Bears can run it back with Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery. That would be fine. But what if I want better than fine?

Well, I’m not sure if that will come via free agency. Although, there are some free-agent options who could build cases for being possible Bears targets. Instead, any money that was earmarked for Barkley can now be spent elsewhere. Not that the Bears are short on cap space. After all, this team is more than $94 million under the cap.

Maybe they go after a right tackle to solidify the line. It is possible the cost of doing business for an upgrade could hit $20 million AAV. At that price, maybe going a few million dollars more annually for a left tackle such as Orlando Brown Jr. is worth considering. On the other side of the line, possible defensive tackle target Dre’Mont Jones could command a contract worth up to $60-70 million. Sticking with the defensive side of things, going after linebacker Bobby Okereke could come at a cost of $12-14 million per year on a multi-year deal. In other words, there are still plenty of targets Chicago can spend money on. And there is no shortage of holes that need filling.

What about the receivers?

Here is the cold, hard truth about this offseason’s crop of available receivers: It is whelming.

Not overwhelming. Not underwhelming. Just … whelming.

Jakobi Meyers interests me as a slot receiver with sharp route-running skills, an ability to create separation, and a willingness to throw down as a blocker. Same with JuJu Smith-Schuster in terms of route-running and separation out of the slot. Both of those players make tough and contested catches in their sleep. Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr. are reclamation projects worth kicking the tires on — although, each player’s injury history suggests light kicking. D.J. Chark, Parris Campbell, Allen Lazard, and Mecole Hardman are receivers whose additions could make the receivers’ room marginally better. And while that isn’t inconsequential, my heart wants more than marginally better from the 2023 Bears’ collection of receivers.

The David Montgomery factor

Barkley joining fellow backs Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard in getting the tag means David Montgomery has a case to be the best free agent RB available. There have been whispers of mutual interest in a return to Chicago. However, seeing Barkley, Pollard, and Jacobs go off the market before they could even hit free agency gives Montgomery a bit more leverage in contract negotiations. Go get that bag, Monty.

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus forecasts a projected contract of 3 years worth up to $19.5 million total. It would come with $12.25 million in guarantees and at $6.5 million per year. That is lower than what I would’ve thought coming into this year, but it still represents a raise from his rookie deal. Perhaps that number ticks up a few million because he could be the top available rusher in free agency. Even if it does, the Bears have enough cap space to take the hit on paying a running back so it doesn’t concern me all too much. Besides, re-signing Montgomery sends a good message to the locker room about how the front office and coaches respect and value a veteran leader. For as much as the Bears openly talk about culture, maybe Montgomery was the best fit all along.

Author: Luis Medina

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