Veteran Free Agent Could ‘Turn Around’ Bears, Says Analyst

Will Fuller V

Getty One analyst thinks free agent WR Will Fuller could change things for the Bears.

It’s going to take far more than one player to turn the Chicago Bears around, but one analyst thinks there is a remaining free agent who has a shot at doing just that.

Alex Ballantine of Bleacher Report compiled a list of free agent players still available along with their best fits, and he thinks speedy but often-injured wide receiver Will Fuller V is perfect for the Bears.

Noting each player on his list “either has upside that could increase the overall talent on the roster or brings experience to guide younger players to their full potential,” Ballantine made a case for why Fuller could “help turn around” a Bears team that finished 6-11 in 2021 and 8-8 the two years prior.

“Will Fuller V has been fool’s gold in free agency before, but he’s well worth a flier this late in the process,” Ballentine wrote. “His extensive injury history might scare away contenders. They are looking for someone they know will be in the lineup come playoff time.”

The Bears aren’t contenders, though — but Fuller’s injury history might be enough to scare off teams that aren’t going to be competing any time soon.

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Fuller Has Never Played a Full NFL Season

Fuller signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2021, and he wound up playing in just two games all year after breaking his finger, catching four passes for 26 yards, per Pro Football Reference.

He has missed 40 games over the last five seasons due to various injuries, and he’d be a huge risk for any team to sign, contender or not. In addition to his broken finger in 2021, Fuller also broke his collarbone and cracked his ribs in 2017 and suffered a torn right ACL in 2018. In his six seasons in the NFL, the most games he has played during the regular season is 14, and that was as a rookie in 2016.

Knowing all of this, Ballentine still thinks Fuller would help second-year quarterback Justin Fields immensely due to Fuller’s deep play ability coupled with Fields’ accuracy with deep balls.

“If Fields showed one thing in his rookie season, he’s a capable deep-ball passer. He led the league in air yards per completion. Darnell Mooney and his 4.38 speed helped Fields get to that number. Adding another sub-4.4 burner in Fuller to his receiving corps would aid Fields in taking the next step as a passer in 2022.”

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Fuller Alone Can’t Fix Bears’ Myriad Issues

In 2020, his best statistical season, Fuller hauled in 53 passes for 879 yards (16.6 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns in 11 games, per PRF. QBs had a passer rating of 132.5 when looking his way that year, and he dropped just two passes on 76 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.

He has averaged an impressive 14.7 yards reception over his career, and while he’d be a low risk, high-reward signing on a cheap one-year deal, he alone can’t fix Chicago’s numerous problems on offense.

To start, there’s the Bears’ offensive line, which allowed a league-high 58 sacks last year (that’s an average of 3.41 sacks per game). While Chicago added veteran center Lucas Patrick and drafted several late-round O-linemen, protecting Fields isn’t going to be helped at all by Fuller’s presence.

Fields also has a lack of playmakers, and while Fuller is both speedy and capable of making dazzling catches, he’s not the kind of addition that would turn Chicago’s offense around immediately.

That’s not to say Fuller wouldn’t be worth taking a flier on, particularly if he’d take $4-5 million on a one-year deal. If he would be willing to sign for half the money he did last season, the Bears should give him a look. If not, they’re far better off with a receiving corps led by Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle.

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