It is shaping up to be a wildly exciting offseason in the Windy City. The Bears are in a position where they control both the draft and free agency, as they locked up the first overall pick (for the first time in 76 years) and have the most available cap space in the league by a wide margin. Chicago might not fill all their roster holes in one offseason, but landing a number one receiver should be high on the team’s priority list.
The Bears are a team full of question marks, but (for the first time in a long time) the quarterback position is not one of them. Justin Fields had a breakout season and proved to be one of the most exciting young signal-callers in the league, even while throwing to a group of pass-catchers consisting of practice squad hopefuls and future grocery store clerks. There is no better way to help a young quarterback than by surrounding him with proven talent at the wide receiver position, and the Bears would be wise to follow that blueprint.
The free agent crop of pass-catchers leaves an awful lot to be desired, which probably played a role in Chicago’s decision to target Chase Claypool ahead of the trade deadline. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, and Allen Lazard headline a thoroughly underwhelming group that seems destined to become overpaid on the open market. Likewise, Chicago would be hard-pressed to find a number-one pass-catcher through the draft, as this class lacks a true top option at the position. However, several veteran pass-catchers could become available for the right price this offseason.
Jalen Hurts was not Jalen Hurts before the Eagles landed A.J. Brown. Josh Allen looked like a shell of himself before the Bills moved hell or high water for Stefon Diggs. Tua Tagovailoa looked like a replacement-level starter before the Dolphins traded the farm for Tyreek Hill. Derek Carr looked like… Well, forget about that one. Each team that dealt the aforementioned pass-catchers received at least a first-round selection in return. While it is safe to assume the Bears would not want to part ways with that kind of draft capital, they might be able to land a top-flight pass-catcher at a fraction of the price, as a handful of proven veterans might be looking for a new home soon.
Deandre Hopkins is one of the most intriguing players that could be dealt in the coming months. The 30-year-old proved he can still play at an elite level after returning from his six-game suspension, as the pass-catcher provided an instant jolt to Arizona’s passing game and finished the season with over 700 yards despite playing in only nine contests. Nevertheless, the Cardinals are reportedly looking to move on from the five-time Pro Bowler in the offseason, which indicates he is no longer in their plans. Considering the fact that he is now on the wrong side of 30 and will be making $34 million over the next two seasons, he could probably be lured away from the desert for a second or third-round selection, which is well worth the price of admission for the future Hall of Famer.
While landing D-Hop would make the Bears’ three-receiver sets one of the most potent in the league, he is not the only pass-catcher who would provide a major boost to Chicago’s offense.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be entering a rebuilding period if they move on from Tom Brady in the offseason, which could provide the Bears with an opportunity to land one of the most consistent (and criminally underrated) receivers in NFL history. They are projected to be $42 million over the cap in 2023, and Mike Evans, who has recorded nine-straight seasons of over 1000 yards, is on the books for $23 million in the final year of his contract. Tampa Bay might be willing to part ways with the 29-year-old for the right price, and the Bears would be wise to be in on the big-bodied pass-catcher if that is the case.
Michael Thomas is another name to keep an eye on as a trade target this offseason, as there is reason to believe the disgruntled pass-catcher has worn out his welcome in New Orleans after playing in only three games last season. His record-breaking 2019 season feels like decades ago, but his large frame, sure hands, and superb route-running ability would make him a welcome addition to any offense. Fields has yet to develop enough trust in any of his targets to throw them the ball when they are not open, but Thomas’ ability to box out defenders could help him grow that part of his game.
The Bears need to add more offensive firepower if they want to field a competitive roster in 2023. They have the resources to improve their receiver room this offseason, and the front office would be wise to land their guy via a trade. The only way to drop the ball with this opportunity is by failing to find someone who can catch it.