The Chicago Bears are still on track to let top running back David Montgomery hit unrestricted free agency next week, but they have now secured another young piece of their backfield for the 2023 season.
According to sports agency Team IFA, the Bears have signed a two-year contract extension with fullback Khari Blasingame after the 26-year-old played a key role both as a pass blocker and a special teams weapon during the 2022 season.
“Our guy is staying in Chicago!” Team IFA tweeted from their official account on Wednesday night. “@KhariBlasingame and the @ChicagoBears have agreed to a two-year extension. Congrats, Khari.”
Blasingame signed with the Bears on a one-year contract last offseason after spending his first three seasons with the Tennessee Titans and played 389 total snaps over his 16 games, predominately with Chicago’s kickoff return and punt coverage units. According to Pro Football Focus, he was graded as the 11th-best special teams player in the NFL (89.2) among those who played at least 50% of their team’s special teams snaps.
Blasingame was also highly regarded as a pass-blocker as well for the Bears, allowing just one pressure over 21 pass-blocking snaps and receiving PFF’s second-highest grade (79.4) among all fullbacks in the league — and 13th-best among all rushers.
Will Bears Extend David Montgomery Before Free Agency?
The Bears are facing an important decision regarding their backfield over the next week as they weigh the future of Montgomery as the lead running back in their offense. The 25-year-old has rushed for 3,306 yards and scored 30 total touchdowns over his past four seasons in Chicago. He has also stood out as both a pass-catcher and pass-blocker as well, setting himself up nicely to earn a significant pay raise on his next NFL contract.
Despite Montgomery’s success, though, the Bears have been expected to let him walk in free agency. Part of the reason for that is the presence of Khalil Herbert, who rushed for 731 yards and four touchdowns over just 13 games for the Bears last season. Between him and Trestan Ebner, the Bears have two running backs with at least two more years left on their rookie contracts, making the need for a high-priced investment in the position much smaller than some of the other, weaker positions on their roster.
With Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs both getting franchise-tagged by their respective teams, Montgomery is also set to be one of the top running backs on the market in 2023 alongside Philadelphia Eagles starter Miles Sanders. According to Spotrac, Montgomery’s calculated market value for his next contract has been projected to be about $7.2 million per season, but the dwindling top-end options could allow him to push his asking price even higher, perhaps even into the $10 million per year range.
The Bears might be willing to extend him for the right price — in fact, general manager Ryan Poles even told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that he would still like to keep Montgomery — but they could fall out of the conversation if the 2019 third-round pick decides to chase top dollar on the open market.