Bears Among ‘Several’ Suitors for Record-Setting RB: Report

Williams Bears Interest

Getty Justin Fields could have a new running back working out of the Bears' backfield behind him in 2023.

The Chicago Bears will not have David Montgomery rejoining their backfield in 2023 after NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on March 14 that his plans are to sign a new, three-year deal with the Detroit Lions, but the Bears might be gearing up to return the favor and add one of the Lions’ own rushing weapons.

According to Tyler Dunne of Go Long, the Bears are one of several teams in the mix to sign former Lions running back Jamaal Williams in 2023 free agency. The 27-year-old is coming off a career season for the Lions that saw him eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the first time and set a franchise record with his 17 total rushing touchdowns, more than any other running back in the league by at least four scores.

“Jamaal Williams update,” Dunne tweeted prior to Montgomery’s signing on March 14. “Right now, the running back and Lions are far apart on a deal. Several teams still in the mix: Bills, Bengals, even [the] Panthers/Bears. Bills mulling what to do with Devin Singletary. Hold-up right now is the RB market itself — top backs still waiting.”

Jamaal Williams Fits the Bears, But What’s the Cost?

Williams certainly has familiarity with the NFC North and Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy after he spent his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He has also spent the majority of his career working as a complementary piece in a split backfield, which could appeal to a Bears offense that already has one good back in Khalil Herbert. Whether he is the right fit, though, could depend on his desired price tag.

Montgomery signed with the Lions for just $18 million over three years, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, implying that either Montgomery wanted out of Chicago or that Ryan Poles wasn’t quite as interested in keeping him as he led on. If the Bears are looking for another running back under that $6 million-per-year line, though, they could be out of luck with Williams, especially with several teams showing interest.

According to Spotrac, Williams has a calculated market value of just $4.1 million per year despite his impressive season for the Lions. Considering their prediction for Montgomery — $7.2 million in average annual value — was a little higher than he got, it is possible even that Williams will ultimately sign for even less. Either way, though, the Bears would be getting quite the value if they locked down Williams for $5 million AAV or less.

Could Austin Ekeler Be a Trade Option for Bears?

Ekeler Bears Williams

GettyAustin Ekeler could offer the Bears a significant upgrade for their backfield in 2023.

If things don’t work out with Williams, the Bears could always go after the biggest fish on the market right now: Los Angeles Chargers superstar running back Austin Ekeler.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Ekeler requested a trade from the Chargers on Monday’s first day of the legal tampering period after the two sides “failed to make progress on a new contract.” Ekeler is due just $6.25 million in base salary for the 2023 season, but he has far exceeded his current earnings with more touchdowns than anyone (38) over the past two seasons. The Chargers have since granted his request, per Schefter, allowing Ekeler’s representation to start talking with other teams.

Now, it is hard to say what the Chargers might want in terms of compensation. Any team interested in Ekeler would also have to be prepared to quickly extend him on a new, higher-priced contract that could rival some of the top backs in the league. A fair reference point for both, though, might be Christian McCaffrey.

The Carolina Panthers trade McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers at last season’s trade deadline, acquiring additional picks in the second, third and fourth rounds for 2023 and in the fifth round of 2024. That’s quite the haul, one the value-chasing Bears would most likely not be willing to pay with so many other, more pressing roster needs. He is also currently playing on a four-year deal worth roughly $64 million, which could be near the value that Ekeler — a dual-threat back of similar proportion — is seeking.

That is, perhaps, too hefty a price for a rebuilding franchise, even for a superstar.

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