Bears Predicted to Bench Polarizing WR as Team Gets Healthy

Velus Jones Jr., Bears

Getty Wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. of the Chicago Bears.

Sometimes there’s an NFL player whose career just doesn’t make sense. For the Chicago Bears, that player is wide receiver and special-teamer Velus Jones Jr.

Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic discussed the curious, and unfortunate, case of Jones while answering mailbag questions on Thursday, November 9.

“During training camp, Jones looked like a new player. He caught every punt. He was making plays as a receiver. Then he struggled in the preseason and was inactive in Week 1,” Fishbain wrote. “The physical talent is there, but with Equanimeous St. Brown and Khalil Herbert set to return from injured reserve, I could see Jones being a healthy scratch. I’m not sure [GM Ryan] Poles is ready to cut a third-round pick in the middle of the season. Despite Jones’ rare speed and size combo, the results aren’t there.”

Velus Jones Has Made Array of Costly Mistakes in Short NFL Career with Bears

Hightower on VJJ Bears

GettyWide receiver Velus Jones Jr. of the Chicago Bears.

Jones has struggled with ball security over his 1.5-year career, though it was a mistake of a different sort that had special teams coordinator Richard Hightower speaking critically and publicly about Jones’ shortcomings following a loss last weekend to the New Orleans Saints.

Aside from returning kickoffs, and punts briefly in 2022, Jones is also a gunner on special teams, which means his responsibility is to get downfield as fast as possible when the Bears are punting or kicking off and tackle the opponent’s return man.

Down 24-17 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in New Orleans last Sunday, Chicago punted the ball out of its own end zone. Officials whistled Jones for a face mask penalty during coverage, which cost the Bears 15 yards of field position and allowed the Saints to start their drive from inside field-goal range at Chicago’s 36-yard-line.

“It is an unacceptable penalty,” Hightower said. “Because we pride ourselves on situational football. In that situation, we could have had the ball at the 50-yard line against an outstanding punt returner. And that was a beautiful punt by Trent [Gill] and beautiful coverage.”

Velus Jones Could Become Cut or Trade Candidate by Offseason

Hightower on VJJ Bears1

GettyWide receiver Velus Jones Jr. of the Chicago Bears runs with the football during an NFL game against the New York Jets in November 2022.

Jones is only 26 years old and was one of Poles’ first selections as Bears general manager, coming off the board with the No. 71 overall pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Those facts are probably what have kept his job safe to this point, but they won’t forever.

Poles could more easily cut Jones if he had an albatross of a contract, but he is playing on a manageable four-year, $5.4 million rookie deal and his salary cap hit is less than $1.3 million this season.

The Bears might have some trouble trading Jones for any sort of value in the offseason considering his struggles, but Jones can restore his value easier than most due to his 6-foot, 200-pound frame and 4.31-second 40-yard dash speed. All he needs to do is prove himself a capable player in one facet of the game outside of kickoff returns, and Poles can probably get a Day 3 draft asset back in return as part of a trade somewhere down the line.

The issue, however, is whether Jones will get that chance. Chicago’s skill-position players are getting healthier and once the team returns to full strength, Jones could find himself sidelined permanently.

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