The Chicago Bears were supposed to begin their rise from the NFL cellar this season but through three games, that’s been anything but the case.
Chicago is one of four 0-3 teams and is currently rated dead last in the league’s power rankings. If the Bears can’t get on track quickly, general manager Ryan Poles must seriously consider reshuffling the deck in just his second year on the job. That could mean just about anyone is in play ahead of the trade deadline, including those billed as top playmakers entering the 2023 campaign.
If the Bears are out on trying to win this season, wide receiver Darnell Mooney could become available. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and could look to find a more stable situation in 2024 anyway.
Chicago could likely expect a reasonable return for the 25-year-old, who has caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown this season.
The [Los Angeles] Chargers might want to target Mooney in the wake of [Mike] Williams‘ injury. The New England Patriots might also want to take a flier on the Tulane product, as their passing attack continues to underwhelm.
Darnell Mooney Worth Keeping if Bears Can Solve Pass-Game Woes
Mooney is cheap now, but bound for free agency in March if Chicago chooses not to extend him before then. Spotrac projects his market value at $13 million annually over a four-year contract.
That isn’t outrageous money for a sure-handed 2020 fifth-round pick who has significantly outperformed his draft position. Mooney caught 81 passes for 1,055 yards and 4 touchdowns during his sophomore season, per Pro Football Reference. Coming into this year, it appeared the Bears were likely to extend either Mooney, Chase Claypool or both.
However, Claypool has continued to be a disaster since Chicago sent the Pittsburgh Steelers what eventually became the first pick of the second round in 2023 to acquire the wideout ahead of last season’s trade deadline. He has caught just 4 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown on the year.
Mooney was, and continues to be, the more logical choice for the Bears to extend. However, Claypool’s trade value is at an all-time low and it wouldn’t be surprising if Chicago simply let him walk at season’s end if the team can’t find a trade partner willing to part with a late-round pick ahead of the deadline.
Keeping Mooney along with No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Moore is probably still the way to go if quarterback Justin Fields can ever figure it out as a passer. That said, there’s no sense in the Bears sinking upwards of $35 million annually (Moore earns north of $20 million per season) into their top two wide receivers if there’s no one in the huddle who can consistently deliver them the football in optimal situations.
Bears QB Justin Fields Hasn’t Relinquished Playoff Hopes Yet
While it may feel to some fans like the Bears are stuck in the same hopeless place they’ve been for most of the last decade, Fields isn’t trying to hear that just yet. The Chicago quarterback told media members that he still has hope for a playoff run following his team’s 41-10 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday.
If Fields gets on track and Chicago makes a strong finish to the season, the likelihood of trading potential long-term pieces like Mooney decreases, as does the likelihood that the Bears look elsewhere in next year’s draft for their QB of the future.
Were the season to end today, Chicago would own two of the top four picks in the 2024 draft — their own and the one they acquired from the Carolina Panthers by flipping the No. 1 overall selection in 2023 for Moore and a pile of future assets.