In the second major move of his tenure as general manager of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Poles is parting ways with running back and All-Pro punt returner Tarik Cohen, according to NFL insider Adam Schefter, who also noted the gadget back was not yet able to pass a physical and would be released with an injury designation.
Cohen, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Week 3 of the 2020 season against the Atlanta Falcons, hasn’t played since, and questions have run amok about when he may return to the field. Schefter also reported Cohen plans “to be ready in time for this upcoming season.”
A fourth round pick for Chicago out of North Carolina A&T in 2017 (119th overall), Cohen was a first-team All-Pro selection as a punt returner in 2018, which remains his best statistical season as a pro. The speedy and versatile back rushed for 444 yards and three scores while adding 725 receiving yards and five scores through the air.
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Cohen’s Contract Didn’t Help Him
Cohen signed a three-year, $17.25 million contract extension with Chicago on September 20 of 2020. A week later, he tore his ACL as he was fielding a punt, and hasn’t played since.
The Bears will save $2,250,000 in cap space releasing him prior to June 1, per Over the Cap, and they should have over $33 million in available cap space once the team makes it official. He was due a $3.9 million base salary, and considering his lack of on-field production over the past two seasons, this move comes as no surprise.
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Poles Has No Attachments to Players on Bears Roster
After sending All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2022 and a sixth-round pick in 2023, letting Cohen go is the second major move of Poles’ tenure as GM.
Those are two very big statement moves for Poles to make. Moving Mack’s hefty $63.9 million contract couldn’t have been easy, but unloading huge contracts from aging or recently-injured players in order to utilize the money to build around quarterback Justin Fields seems to be at the top of Poles’ to-do list.
Poles spoke to the media at the scouting combine on March 1, he noted the benefit of having zero attachments to any of the current players on Chicago’s roster.
“You see it for what it is. Some of the bias and opinions from the past don’t water down your evaluations,” Poles said. “You see it for what the tape is telling you.”
Losing both Mack and Cohen — two of the cornerstones of the team’s last NFC North-winning squad in 2018, when the Bears finished 12-4 — may sting for Bears fans, but the ultimate goal is to build a better team around Fields, which means putting more money into the offensive line and at wide receiver.
The Bears are also rumored to be parting ways with veteran linebacker Danny Trevathan, and while the team’s cap situation isn’t going to be ideal in 2022, trading Mack and severing ties with players on expensive contracts will result in around $121 in available funds in 2023, as ESPN’s Laurie Horesh noted: