The Chicago Bears could be waiting quite a while to see if their investment in former New England Patriots first-rounder N’Keal Harry was worth it.
Harry sustained an apparent injury during the Bears’ training-camp practice on August 6 and had to be helped off the field by teammates and trainers, according to several of the reporters who were in attendance for the session. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has since confirmed it is an ankle injury for Harry and that it “appears severe,” but he added that the young receiver is “awaiting further evaluation and hoping for the best.”
“I don’t know much, I just saw him come down,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said after Saturday’s practice. “I saw the play and don’t really know much from there. We’re obviously going to do the evaluation, and once I get that, we can get it back to you. If it’s a longer situation, we’ll let you know what it is. If it’s day-by-day, we’ll say that, too.”
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Harry’s ‘Fresh Start’ Put on Pause
As Fowler mentioned, Harry has been looking to get a fresh start in Chicago after a disappointing three seasons in New England. He was the No. 32 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, but he played just 33 games and caught a combined 57 passes for 598 yards and four touchdowns during his three years with the Patriots, falling well short of expectations for a first-round selection.
With a below-average receiving unit, the Bears decided to take a chance on Harry back in July and traded a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for him. He had been in the mix for a potential starting role with the Bears, possibly to become the new No. 2 receiver opposite Darnell Mooney, but the severity of his injury could derail his chances if he ends up missing significant time.
The Bears are also currently practicing without three other members of their receiving corps: Byron Pringle, Dante Pettis and third-round rookie Velus Jones Jr. It remains to be seen how much time each of them will miss, but it could push Chicago to re-examine the veteran free agent market as they build up to the 2022 regular season.
Which Veteran WRs Could Fit With Bears?
If the Bears decide to go fishing on the receiver market, it will most likely be to find an experienced pass-catcher who is willing to sign a one-year deal. That said, there are still a few veterans left unsigned who could be real difference-makers for the Bears.
First thing’s first: Odell Beckham Jr. is almost certainly not in play. The Bears’ reason for adding another receiver would be to help them cope with the current injuries on their roster, and Beckham is still recovering from the ACL tear he sustained just six months ago during Super Bowl LVI. It also stands to reason he will want to sign with a contender, which the Bears are most certainly not in the upcoming season.
One option that could make sense, though, is Will Fuller IV. The 28-year-old’s career has been littered with injuries but is a legitimate deep-threat receiver when he is on the field. He has averaged 14.7 yards per catch on 213 career receptions and racked up a total of 3,136 yards and 24 touchdowns. If he is healthy now, the Bears could possibly sign him to a lower-cost deal and hope he can at least bridge the gap for the roster while they wait for other contributors to return to the field.
Other veteran receivers that remain unsigned include: T.Y. Hilton, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Allen Hurns and DeSean Jackson. There are also a few untapped young receivers who could be potentially acquired via a trade, such as Jalen Reagor with the Philadelphia Eagles or Denzel Mims with the New York Jets.