Bears Not in ‘Any Hurry’ for WR Move, Packers & Lions Extensions Looming?

Justin Fields

Getty Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

The 2022 NFL opener has come and gone and the Los Angeles Rams failed to rise to the moment in the first game of their Super Bowl defense. While the Buffalo Bills look like a juggernaut capable of finally lifting the weight of four Super Sunday losses in the 1990s in championship-starved Buffalo.

To celebrate the occasion, Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, September 9 — hosted by Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s).

For Week 1, it’s a heavy dose of NFC North action, plus a bonus quarterback hypothetical involving four of the NFL’s biggest stars.

Chicago Bears

Do you think the Bears will add any help at WR soon considering recent injury issues?

This has certainly been the training camp from hell for the Chicago Bears wide receiver room.

N’Keal Harry (ankle) will be out for at least eight weeks, Tajae Sharpe (ribs) and David Moore (leg) are both out for the season. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the Bears eye veteran help to solidify second-year quarterback Justin Fields’ supporting cast and add a reliable weapon to a starting group that’s currently constructed of Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr.

However, multiple sources familiar with the wide receiver market tell Heavy that, at least for now, the Bears don’t seem to be in any hurry to make a move.

One name to watch as a potentially ideal fit in Chicago is veteran Travis Benjamin.

In 2021, Benjamin appeared in 10 games as the San Francisco 49ers’ punt and kickoff returner, averaging 15.7 yards per punt return and 12 yards per kickoff return.

Benjamin, 32, still has the kind of game-breaking speed that can take the top off a defense and stretch the field for Fields, and serve as a mentor for the Bears’ young receiving room.

Green Bay Packers

Have you heard anything about extension talks regarding the Packers and Elgton Jenkins?

The Green Bay Packers open the regular season with just over $6.6 million in cap space, and every motivation in the world to keep two-time reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers happy, especially after trading All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Part of that equation is keeping an offensive line, which Pro Football Focus listed as the No. 5 ranked unit in the league entering the season, intact for 2022 and beyond. Keeping Elgton Jenkins, who is set to become a free agent after this season, is a key building block.

“The Packers love him,” a league source familiar with the situation told Heavy. “But, from everything I hear, it sounds like they want to see him healthy before any contract talks take place.”

In 2021, Jenkins allowed just 2.0 sacks in 496 total snaps, while garnering an 82.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus before his season was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 11.

“They love him,” an agent familiar with the offensive line market told Heavy.

And, why wouldn’t the Packers?

“He may be the biggest Swiss-Army Knife along the offensive line in the league,” an NFL evaluator told Heavy. “He can play both tackle positions, and was on pace to be an All-Pro before he got hurt last year.”

Proving he can stay healthy is the last remaining hurdle toward a potential long-term extension that would make him among the highest-paid tackles in the league.

Detroit Lions

In light of Dawson’s new deal with the Bills, what’s the current thought about what the Lions will do with TE T.J. Hockenson?

The Bills’ contract extension with Dawson Knox has the potential to have a ripple effect on the rest of the tight end market, including any impending extension with T.J. Hockenson.

According to multiple league sources, the Detroit Lions and Hockenson were engaged deep in contract talks during training camp over the summer, and there is optimism that a deal gets done at some point in the 2022 season.

Hockenson enters his fourth season, having caught 160 passes for 244 yards and 12 touchdowns through his first 40 games. According to Pro Football Focus, Lions quarterback Jared Goff had a passer rating of 95.9 on Hockenson’s 81 targets, and the veteran tight end only dropped one pass all season in 2021.

So, what might a deal look like between Hockenson and the Lions?

“I have to believe that deal gets done somewhere above what the Eagles gave Dallas Goedert,” a league source familiar with the tight end market told Heavy. “But a little below George Kittle’s deal.”

For comparison’s sake, Goedert garnered a four-year contract that included a $10.1 million signing bonus and $35.1 million fully guaranteed, while the 49ers committed $75 million with $40 million fully guaranteed, over five years, as the most lucrative deal ever at the position.

Detroit currently has just $3.1 million in cap space, according to Spotrac, so any extension would likely need to be backloaded, or lower Hockenson’s cap hit in 2022. But, it sure sounds like there is mutual interest in getting a deal done.

Bonus: Quarterback Carousel

Which QB do you think is the most likely to end his career on a different team and which is least likely: Josh Allen (Bills), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Lamar Jackson (Ravens) or Aaron Rodgers (Packers)? 

It’s the first Friday of the regular season, sure, let’s get weird.

Mahomes and Allen are both locked into their current deals with the Chiefs and Bills through 2031 and 2028, respectively, one has a Super Bowl ring, and both lead rosters primed for sustained runs at multiple Lombardi Trophies.

While I could see Mahomes’ deal getting ripped up and reworked, the odds are slim that we ever see anything as insane as him finishing his season in a San Francisco 49ers uniform. Same goes for Allen who, if he wins a Super Bowl, will be a folk hero of Jim Kelly proportions in Buffalo. Plus, Brandon Beane is as forward-thinking a general manager as there is in the league, so getting into a situation where the Bills are tight for cap space and unable to keep Allen around seems very unlikely.

That leaves Rodgers and Jackson, and call it a hunch, but I don’t think either finishes their career for their current teams.

The smoke of Rodgers’ interest in playing for the San Francisco 49ers, as well as the Denver Broncos’ interest in him over the past two seasons, was the byproduct of a small brush fire. That is to say, those conversations were legitimate, multiple sources said at the time those rumors were running rampant.

So, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Packers turn over the reigns to Jordan Love at some point in the next two seasons, nor for Rodgers to be the most sought-after veteran quarterback next offseason.

Likewise, if the Baltimore Ravens are unable to reach a long-term agreement with Jackson, and backup Tyler Huntley is forced to play again in 2022 — and plays well — there’s a very real possibility Baltimore uses the franchise tag on Jackson, punts any decision on his future for another offseason, and could in the process alienate the former MVP and one of the most dangerous weapons at the quarterback position in the entire league.

There will one day be statues to Mahomes in Kansas City and Allen in Buffalo. I’m not so sure Rodgers and Jackson have much more longevity in their current zip codes.

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