Are Tarik Cohen’s days numbered in Chicago? Trade rumors have been surrounding the All-Pro punt returner and running back for awhile now. In March, Sports Illustrated’s Gene Chamberlain wrote that the Bears needed to trade Cohen in order to acquire more draft picks, while noting what Cohen does for the team is easily replaceable.
“He had two years as the human joystick and one last year when it looked like someone pulled the plug,” Chamberlain said of Cohen, who had a down year in 2019. Cohen saw his yards-per-carry drop from 4.5 to 3.3 last season, and his yards-per-reception fell drastically as well, going from 10.2 yards a catch in 2018 to 5.8 in 2019. Chamberlain laid out why Cohen would be a primary player Chicago may consider moving prior to or during the draft:
“Cohen is a unique play maker but is going into the last year of his contract and is due $2.14 million because he hit the performance escalator to get up above the minimum he’d been making. Being in his last year gives Cohen obvious trade value. His value is at an optimum. Making 71 receptions and 79 receptions the last two years shows how much he could help any team in the passing game. However, last year showed his yards per catch can be cut in half and his yards per carry reduced as well. The Bears can easily replace what he does in the passing game with a more conventional receiver, and finding a running back who is a pass catcher but not undersized is preferable because it makes the Bears less predictable.”
NFL Draft analyst Jacob Infante of The Draft Wire and Bleacher Report’s Windy City Gridiron was the latest to weigh in on the Cohen trade rumors. When his fellow draft analyst Max Markham created a poll asking Bears fans if they would like the team to trade Cohen for a third-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, Infante tweeted that “if any team offered a third-round pick for Tarik Cohen, the #Bears would instantly take that deal 10 times out of 10.” Infante also added his reasoning: “Cohen is a gadget back in the last year of his contract, and they won’t re-sign him anyway.”
The Bears drafted Cohen in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Very few saw Ryan Pace’s selection of the 5’6″ running back out of North Carolina A&T coming, but Cohen has been a fan favorite ever since. As Infante noted, Cohen is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and he’ll likely be looking to make more money when he negotiates a new deal after the 2020 season is over. Thus, Infante’s assertion that the Bears are not going to re-sign Cohen is a very likely possibility. If Chicago is going to get rid of Cohen, they may well do so now, while they could still get something for him.
It’s a possibility Ryan Pace could deal Cohen for a mid or late round pick. Some think the Bears could snag a sixth-round pick at best for Cohen, but he’s an All-Pro punt returner who has proven to be effective in the passing game. He could very well garner a third or, more likely, a fourth or fifth round pick in a trade. Here are three teams who have the draft capital to trade for Cohen, while also being good fits for the running back.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles and the Bears are already familiar trade partners. Philadelphia traded a sixth-round pick to the Bears for Jordan Howard a year ago, and it wouldn’t be a bit surprising to see Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson strike up another deal involving Cohen. Miles Sanders would be the feature back, but a player like Cohen could really add another layer of depth to the Eagles’ offense. Both he and Sanders can catch the ball well out of the backfield, and Cohen would immediately make Philadelphia’s return team better.
The Eagles have the draft picks to trade away to get him, too. They have the 103rd overall pick in the third round, and they have a bounty of fourth-round picks: No. 127, No. 145 and No. 146. They also have pick No. 168 in the fifth round, but a fourth rounder for Cohen seems fair.
2. New York Jets
Teams looking for a gadget player like Cohen who could also provide an immediate boost to their special teams return units. Considering his well-documented issues with current running back Le’Veon Bell, Jets head coach Adam Gase could be looking for such a player. Cohen’s strengths in the passing game (in 2018, he caught 71 passes for 715 yards and five scores, while also catching 79 passes last season) would be a definite asset for Sam Darnold, and the Jets certainly have enough draft picks to trade for him.
New York has the 68th and 79th overall picks in the third round, to go with the 120th overall pick in the fourth and the 158th pick in the fifth round. While parting with a third rounder for Cohen is unlikely, the Jets’ two third round picks may make them more amenable to giving the Bears a fourth of fifth rounder for Cohen.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Imagine Cohen in an offense led by Lamar Jackson. He would be behind Mark Ingram on the Ravens depth chart, but between Ingram’s hard-hitting style and Cohen’s finesse, they would make quite the one-two combo while making an already dangerous running game even scarier.
The Ravens also have plenty of picks to throw Chicago’s way: Baltimore has the 92nd and 106th overall picks in the third round, the No. 129 and No. 134 picks in the fourth round, and the 157th pick in the fifth. His special teams value shouldn’t be overlooked — and if the Bears want to move him, Cohen will absolutely have suitors.
Bears fans will likely miss Cohen if he were to be traded. He’s fun; he’ll spring the occasional backflip or mid-air somersault, and his play is exciting at times.
Chicago has zero picks in the third or fourth rounds in the draft, however, and moving Cohen may be one way to change that.