Bears’ Controversial Playmaker Dubbed Breakout Candidate for 2023

Claypool BR Breakout 2023

Getty Justin Fields could see wide receiver Chase Claypool break out for the Bears in 2023.

Chase Claypool didn’t catch fire during his first half-season with the Chicago Bears after getting acquired in a trade during last year’s NFL trade deadline, but at least one analyst has him on breakout watch in anticipation of him getting a full offseason to learn the playbook and build chemistry with Justin Fields.

Bleacher Report analyst Jack Rill recently predicted three players he believes could have a breakout season for the Bears in 2023 and featured Claypool at the top of his list, arguing that the 24-year-old wideout could be “poised for bigger things” now that he’s had ample time to settle in and digest Luke Getsy’s offensive system.

[Claypool] has the necessary talent to become an impact playmaker,” Rill wrote on May 22. That’s why the Notre Dame product could be poised for bigger things in 2023, especially now that he’ll be more familiar with the Bears’ playbook. He should have better chemistry with quarterback Justin Fields, and there will be a stronger offense in place around them.”

The Bears have taken several big steps toward improving their overall offense over the past several months of the 2023 offseason, most notably adding star wide receiver D.J. Moore in trading away the No. 1 overall draft pick to the Carolina Panthers. They also drafted fourth-rounder Tyler Scott and re-signed former starters Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis to ensure a higher quality of depth at the position.

“Opposing defenses may have trouble trying to cover a receiving corps now featuring the trio of DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Claypool, allowing all of them to excel,” Rill added. “Claypool could become the breakout performer of the group.”

Chase Claypool Can Be Dangerous as ‘X’ Receiver

Claypool Breakout 1

GettyChase Claypool, right, could be in line for a breakout season with the Bears in 2023.

The Bears have bucked the notion of regret when it comes to their trade for Claypool last November. While Claypool underperformed in his first seven games for the Bears (14 catches for 140 yards) and the price to get him ultimately ended up being the first pick in the second round of the draft (No. 32 overall), general manager Ryan Poles has maintained that he is “not blinking at that [trade] at all” amid angst from fans.

“There’s an entire offseason and half of a season of installs and all the things you need to do collectively to play and execute offensive play,” Poles said of Claypool on January 10. “On top of that, it was a little bit choppy with Justin getting dinged up, he got dinged up. So, it was a little bit choppy of a start. I told Chase, and we had a really good conversation, I’m not blinking at that one at all. I think he’s gonna help us moving forward and I’m excited about it.”

It isn’t difficult to see why Poles believes Claypool can help take their offense to new heights. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound receiver has all the tools to be an ideal ‘X’ receiver for the Bears, possessing the right kind of physicality to avoid getting jammed up at the line and outmatch his man coverage on contested grabs.

Claypool also has top-end speed for his size, clocking a 4.42-second time in the 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine — which made him only the second receiver to size in at 6-foot-4 and at least 235 pounds and run a sub 4.5 in the 40. The other receiver to earn that distinction was Detroit Lions superstar Calvin Johnson in 2007.

Claypool averaged more than 14 yards per reception in each of his first two seasons with the Steelers and scored a career-high nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2020, so he has achieved the necessary production in the past. Now, it’s just a matter of putting it together within the Bears’ offensive scheme and proving he can be who they need.

Bears Have Extension Decisions to Make at WR

A breakout season for Claypool with the Bears isn’t just a hope or a prediction; it may very well be a necessary goal for him in terms of trying to ensure he sticks around for 2024 and beyond — especially with Mooney also seeking his own long-term contract.

The Bears currently have just three wide receivers under contract beyond the 2023 season: Moore, Scott and Velus Jones Jr. The latter two will both still have multiple years left on their respective rookie deals while Moore is signed through the 2025 season, thanks to the extension he got from the Panthers prior to his trade.

That’s a decent start, but the Bears will expectedly want to try keeping at least one more of their starters between Mooney and Claypool, if not both of them.

The Bears have the money to keep both of them, as Over the Cap projects them to have roughly $96 million in cap space in 2024, but it could be difficult for them to justify having three high-priced receiver contracts on their books. In all likelihood, it could come down to a battle between Mooney and Claypool for the right to receive a new deal, and Mooney certainly has the advantage with a stronger career record with the Bears.

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