Ex-49ers Speedster ‘Name to Watch’ for Bears in Free Agency, Says Insider

Travis Benjamin

Getty Travis Benjamin is currently still a free agent.

The Chicago Bears are set to kick off their 2022 regular season against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on September 11, and they’re going to do it banged up at wide receiver.

As it stands, the team’s top four receivers are Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and rookie Velus Jones Jr., but Jones hasn’t practiced all week and doesn’t look to be ready to make his NFL debut yet. Pringle has also been sidelined throughout the entire preseason with a quad injury, but he should be back by Week 1.

Chicago lost WRs Tajae Sharpe and David Moore for the season, and trade acquisition N’Keal Harry is out at least the first eight weeks of the season with an ankle injury. Dante Pettis and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are the only other two receivers listed on the depth chart. Considering the , will the Bears add another WR in free agency?

Heavy’s NFL insider was asked that question in his September 9 mailbag, and he had an interesting response.

Keep an Eye on Free Agent WR Travis Benjamin, Matt Lombardo Says

The Bears don’t have any marquee names lining up at wide receiver, but quarterback Justin Fields doesn’t think that matters.

“Just because we don’t have a big-name guy, doesn’t mean those guys aren’t talented,” Fields told Bleacher Report in May. “I have plenty of confidence in myself and my teammates that we’re going to get the job done.”

Still, if another injury were to strike Chicago’s WR corps, the team will be in trouble. They may wait until that happens before making a move, however. According to Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo, “multiple sources familiar with the wide receiver market tell Heavy that, at least for now, the Bears don’t seem to be in any hurry to make a move.”

But if they do, Lombardo named one wideout to keep an eye on.

“One name to watch as a potentially ideal fit in Chicago is veteran Travis Benjamin,” Lombardo wrote.

Benjamin Would Give Bears Legit Punt Return Option

Jones, who displayed his speed and return prowess in the Bears’ second preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, will likely be the team’s top punt returner when he’s fully healthy.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt the Bears to add an experienced return man to the mix, and Lombardo is correct — Benjamin would be a great fit.

The 32-year-old WR is a savvy vet, playing nine seasons in the NFL. A fourth-round pick for the Cleveland Browns in 2012, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Benjamin spent his first four seasons in Cleveland, where he caught 109 passes for 1,683 yards and 10 touchdowns in 54 games and 21 starts (stats via Pro Football Reference). He also established himself as a threat in the punt return department, scoring three touchdowns while averaging 12.6 yards per return on 68 returns.

The veteran wideout landed with the Chargers in 2016, where he also played for four years. He played in 47 games (16 starts) in that span, missing 11 games in 2019 with a quad injury.

Benjamin chose to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic after inking a one-year deal with the 49ers. He landed on San Francisco’s practice squad the following year in 2021 and was eventually elevated to the active roster in October, where he played on special teams only, averaging 15.7 yards per punt return and 12.0 yards per kickoff return.

Benjamin would likely need to be stashed on the practice squad for several weeks to get into the groove, but based on his experience alone, he’d be worth looking at for Chicago.

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