The Chicago Bears are likely satisfied with their running back room after adding three new ball-carriers in the offseason, but they could be persuaded to change their mind now that a new superstar has requested a trade from his team.
In the wake of Jonathan Taylor officially requesting a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton identified the Bears as one of the teams he believes could make a deal for the All-Pro running back and even suggested a potential trade package to illustrate the value that Chicago would likely need to give up for him.
“Chicago doesn’t need another running back, but it can upgrade the position with one of the league’s top ball-carriers,” Moton wrote on July 30, suggesting the Bears could acquire Taylor from the Colts in exchange for their 2024 second-round pick.
“Taylor could cement Chicago’s hard-nosed physical offensive identity while Fields makes strides as a passer. With $[28.3] million in cap space, the Bears can afford to load up on top-notch skill players to aid their young signal-caller’s development. First, wideout DJ Moore, now Taylor.”
Jonathan Taylor Would Add Another Foundational Piece to Bears Offense in Year 2 of Extensive Rebuild
The Bears took the value approach to restocking their running back room for the 2023 season. Instead of paying starter David Montgomery to stay put, they allowed him to walk in free agency and signed D’Onta Foreman (one year, $2 million) and Travis Homer (two years, $4 million) to join third-year Khalil Herbert in the backfield. They also used one of their fourth-round picks on former Texas standout Roschon Johnson.
Taylor, however, is the type of weapon that could warrant blowing up the plan.
The 2021 second-round pick led the NFL in both rushing yards (1,811) and rushing touchdowns (18) during his dominant 2021 campaign, outrunning every other back in the league by nearly 600 yards. He also added another 360 yards and two touchdowns on 40 catches, earning first-team All-Pro honors in just his second season in the pros.
While an ankle injury pestered him in 2022 and forced him to miss six games, Taylor still managed to average 78.3 yards per game and maintained his career-long habit of forcing missed tackles with a 16th-most 42 missed tackles forced over 11 appearances. According to Pro Football Focus, he has forced the sixth-most missed tackles (123) in the NFL since 2020 and leads all running backs in first downs gained (214) despite “nearly 100 fewer carries than the second-through-fourth-place finishers.”
If the Bears find that Taylor’s injury concerns are firmly behind him, he could absolutely be worth pursuing — especially considering he is still just 24 years old.
Would Bears Be Willing to Give up Significant Assets to Trade for RB Amid League-Wide Value Debate?
The potential of Taylor operating behind quarterback Justin Fields in an offense that features D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet is mouth-watering, but the issues with the Bears possibly trading for him are cost and value, not talent.
The Bears are sitting comfortably in terms of salary-cap space for the next few seasons, including in 2024 when they are projected to have a league-most space ($84.97 million) for a second consecutive season. They could absolutely afford to throw a massive contract extension at Taylor if they acquired him, even in the range of the four-year, $64 million contract that Christian McCaffrey earned from Carolina back in 2020.
“Could pay” does not equate to “should pay,” though.
One of the biggest storylines of the 2023 offseason has been how running backs are being valued in the modern NFL with contract disputes impacting top-tier rushers such as Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler and — recently — Taylor. Teams have been reluctant to keep raising the bar on the positional market, and there is no reason to think the Bears would be any different after declining to sign Montgomery, who landed in Detroit for a modest $6 million annually on his second NFL contract.
The Bears would also have to negotiate trade terms on two fronts if they decided to pursue Taylor. Not only would they have to figure out proper compensation with the Colts, but they would also likely have to make a compelling contract offer to Taylor’s representative to avoid him creating the same mess he has in Indianapolis. Again, the Bears have the resources to execute a move like that, having acquired additional draft assets with their first-round trades in the spring, but is it worth it for a running back?
While Moton might think a 2024 second-rounder is fair compensation — and the Colts might not be willing to listen if it isn’t at least a second-round return — the Bears would most likely not be willing to give up such a premium asset for him. A more reasonable offer for Chicago would be a 2024 third-rounder and Herbert, sweetening the offer for the Colts with a player while also clearing out the clutter of their running back room, but it is still hard to imagine general manager Ryan Poles pulling the trigger.