The Chicago Bears are zeroed in on picking up a top-end wide receiver for Justin Fields this offseason, the only question left to answer is precisely who they will target.
There are a handful of choices, though if the Bears go the free agency route their options dwindle. But, as there are no guarantees that Chicago can find its way to a trade for a big-name pass catcher like DeAndre Hopkins or Tee Higgins, the most likely form of procurement is offering a big contract to a free agent.
David Kenyon of Bleacher Report on February 1 suggested that if the Bears take this route, receiver Jakobi Meyers of the New England Patriots is the best bet to make.
“Chicago general manager Ryan Poles avoided long-term contracts last March, but Meyers is worth the risk because the list of comparable, experienced options is so thin,” Kenyon wrote. “Most importantly, adding him would give Bears quarterback Justin Fields his first legitimate receiving trio with Meyers, Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney.”
Jakobi Meyers Listed as Best WR Option in 2023 Free Agent Class
While Kenyon noted that this free agent class is thin at receiver, he also set forth Meyers as the top option at the position.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus echoed that sentiment on Monday, when he listed Meyers as the seventh-best free agent prospect across all positions and the best wide receiver prospect in 2023.
After every big-name wide receiver in the 2019 NFL Draft class who was set to hit free agency this offseason signed monster extensions before the year began, Meyers found himself as the top free agent at a position that is growing in importance (and value) every single week.
Meyers was an undrafted free agent find of the Patriots in 2019 who has blossomed into a very good player, returning to New England in 2022 on a restricted free agent tender and comfortably outperforming all the other major investments the team made at the position over the past two offseasons.
Meyers is predominantly a slot receiver but is certainly not just that, logging a little more than one-third of his snaps out wide. What he lacks in physical tools — his 4.63-second 40-yard dash ranks in the 14th percentile among wide receivers in PFF’s database — he more than makes up for with sharp route running and great hands.
Spielberger projected that any team interested in signing Meyers this offseason will have to pay him in the neighborhood of $64 million, with $40 million in guaranteed money, over four years. The wideout caught 67 passes for 804 yards and six touchdowns in 2022, per Pro Football Reference.
DeAndre Hopkins, Tee Higgins Among Receivers Bears Might Pursue
If the Bears decide instead to tempt the trade market at wide receiver, Hopkins and Higgins become the top two names on the list.
The Arizona Cardinals have made it known that Hopkins is available, but the cost of the five-time Pro Bowler is undoubtedly going to be high. Not only would the Bears need to fork over some serious draft capital in exchange for Hopkins, but they would then probably need to work out an extension with the 30-year-old receiver who is already set to earn over $34 million in base salary over the next two seasons.
Whether Higgins finds his way to the trade block remains to be seen, though he is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023 and finds himself in a position of negotiating leverage based on recent NFL precedent. Second-round receivers who significantly outplay their draft positions and rookie contracts have done exceedingly well in bullying their teams into extension offers or trades after year three, which is the exact position in which Higgins finds himself.
There is no guarantee the Cincinnati Bengals won’t offer Higgins the big contract he’s all but sure to seek this offseason, or that they won’t play out the string and keep him in town for at least another year (potentially two with the franchise tag) while they try to make a run at a third consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance in 2023.
However, if Higgins does hit the trade market, expect the Bears to make serious inquiries.