Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles isn’t showing an ounce of regret about his decision to trade for wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Critics have already begun to tear apart Poles’ decision to send Chicago’s 2023 second-round pick — now set to be the No. 32 overall pick — to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for Claypool at the NFL trade deadline in November. The 24-year-old receiver was expected to make an immediate impact for the Bears offense, but instead, Claypool caught less than half of the passes thrown his way (14 of 29) over his seven games for Chicago, scored no touchdowns and missed two games with a nagging knee injury.
When Poles was asked for his evaluation of Claypool, though, he mostly dismissed his “choppy” start with the Bears and reaffirmed his belief that the former second-round pick will be a valuable piece of the puzzle for their offense in 2023.
“I think that’s the difference between trades in baseball and basketball, the plug-and-play,” Poles said on January 10. “[In football,] there’s an entire offseason and half of a season of installs and all the things you need to do collectively to play and collectively execute offensive play.
“On top of that, it was a little bit choppy with Justin [Fields] getting dinged up, him getting dinged up, so it was a little bit choppy of a start. I told Chase — and we had a really good conversation — I’m not blinking at that one at all. I think he’s going to help us moving forward and I’m excited about it.”
Claypool Was Quality WR2 Option for the Steelers
Claypool had a disappointing start to his first half-season with the Bears, but Poles isn’t crazy for thinking that the young receiver can be a playmaker for Chicago’s offense once he has a proper offseason to master Luke Getsy’s offensive system and playbook.
Claypool put up more than 800 receiving yards in each of his two full seasons with the Steelers, scoring a whooping nine touchdowns during his breakout rookie year in 2020. As a big possession receiver, he was also a good complement to the smaller Diontae Johnson (5-foot-10, 183 pounds), which could be the pairing that Poles is trying to replicate in Chicago with him (6-4, 238 pounds) and Mooney (5-10, 176 pounds).
Still, there were more reasons than the arrival of George Pickens that the Steelers opted to trade Claypool with a season and a half left on his rookie contract. There were some maturity concerns that arose with some of his excessive celebrations that cost the Steelers either in the form of penalties or valuable lost time on the game clock. Those issues have also come up already in his short time in Chicago with him having a frustrated sideline outburst in the Bears’ loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 17.
If Claypool does a better job of managing his emotions and builds a strong connection with quarterback Justin Fields during the 2023 offseason, though, it could reap massive rewards for both him and the Bears offense next season. Don’t forget, Claypool will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023 and could have a little extra motivation to stand out as he chases an extension with the Bears.
“In terms of the contract stuff, we’ve just got to take the next step, see how he gets implemented and how he does in this offseason,” Poles said. “He’s going to spend a lot of time with Justin as well as the other receivers and build that chemistry. We’ll evaluate that even clearer next year.”
Claypool Planning for Big Offseason With Fields in 2023
From the sounds of things, Claypool and Poles are on the same page about how he is going to be spending the offseason. He recognizes the second-round pick that the Bears gave up to land him was a significant investment on their part and understands he can be a true “piece of the puzzle” if he handles his offseason correctly.
Now, the next step is to go to work.
“I’m going to get with Justin and the receivers in the offseason, and we’re going to start building this,’’ Claypool said, via the Bears’ team website. ‘‘Not only this season but in the offseason. I’ll be really excited for next season. I hope people haven’t counted me out yet, you know? I’ve got a lot to bring to the table.”