Bears Advised to Extend Top Receiving Target Ahead of Season

Justin Fields, Bears

Getty Quarterback Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears takes part in a drill during minicamp in June 2023.

The Chicago Bears are priming Justin Fields for a big step forward in 2023, but they remain one move shy of securing their franchise QB’s future success.

Before the blockbuster deal for D.J. Moore this offseason, ahead of the mid-season move for Chase Claypool at last year’s trade deadline and prior to the season-ending injury to Darnell Mooney, there was stalwart tight end Cole Kmet. The 6’6″, 260-pound headache for opposing defenses led Chicago in every major receiving category in 2022 as Fields’ most reliable target start to finish.

The Bears added former Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan on a one-year deal, but there’s no question who the alpha dog is in the position group. Chicago would be wise to pay Kmet as such this offseason and lock him in long-term, as the team’s trajectory from the NFL’s cellar is ready to travel a sharp incline.

Cole Kmet Arguably Most Crucial Extension for Bears This Offseason

Kmet Gronk-Fields

GettyTight end Cole Kmet and quarterback Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears celebrate a touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins in November 2022.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Monday, June 19, described Kmet’s as the most important extension for Chicago to complete ahead of the regular season.

Extending tight end Cole Kmet, who will be a free agent in 2024, is the next logical step for Chicago. The 24-year-old emerged as Fields’ most reliable target in 2022 and developed chemistry with his quarterback throughout the season.

Kmet led the Bears in receptions (50), receiving yards (544) and receiving touchdowns (7) last year. He also provided a quarterback rating of 105.0 when targeted. Over the past two years, Kmet has averaged 55 receptions, 578 yards and four touchdowns.

Keeping Kmet should be among the team’s top priorities. With a league-high [$32 million] in cap space, Chicago can and should extend him a year before hitting the open market becomes a possibility.

Kmet, a former second-round pick (No. 43) overall in 2020, is entering the final season of his four-year, $7.6 million rookie contract. Spotrac projects his market value at $11.3 million annually over another four-year contract.

Bears QB Justin Fields Poised to Make Leap in 3rd NFL Season

Getsy Fields LightYears

GettyChicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy believes Justin Fields is ‘light-years ahead’ of where he was in 2022.

Given Kmet’s age, durability and consistent production over his first three professional campaigns, a new deal should be a no-brainer. Despite the addition of Moore and Tonyan, there is an argument to be made that Kmet’s numbers will continue to improve as Fields develops into the best version of himself.

Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy spoke with the media on June 7, during which he lauded the quarterback’s development over the last several months.

“Justin is someone that is super focused, works his tail off in every aspect of it — the physical part of it, the on-field part of it, the training part of it. And then in the meeting room, he is focused,” Getsy said. “The types of conversations we’re having now in that room are really [on] a different level than they were last year as far as where he can go with his growth.”

Fields was already near-historic as a rusher from the quarterback position in 2022, amassing 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns on a league-leading 7.1 yards per carry, according to Pro Football Reference. Chicago has since built an entirely new right side of the offensive line, signing guard Nate Davis and drafting rookie tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick.

While there remains some reason for apprehension on Fields’ blindside, the Bears are clearly committed to easing their quarterback’s path to stardom, and locking Kmet into that equation is the next move up.

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