Bears Linked to NFC Rival’s Record-Setting Wide Receiver

Jerry Jeudy Bears Trade

Getty The Bears could be looking to get Justin Fields some receiver upgrades during the 2023 offseason.

The Chicago Bears are prime candidates to take a big swing at wide receiver in an effort to help quarterback Justin Fields level up yet again in 2023.

The free agent market at wideout is a bit bare heading into the offseason, though that is expected to change by the measure of at least one player by the time negotiations are allowed to begin in March — New Orleans Saints two-time All-Pro Michael Thomas.

“The best way to help a young quarterback — Justin Fields — progress as a passer is to get him an elite No. 1 wide receiver,” Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus wrote on January 16. “Thomas isn’t officially a free agent yet, but he will be after the Saints re-negotiated his contract to designate him as a June 1 cut.”

Thomas Injury Struggles Make Him a Risk, But One Bears Can Take

Michael Thomas Saints

GettyWide receiver Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball during the first half against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 5, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Thomas was one of the best pass catchers in the NFL for a three-year run between 2017-19, earning three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and breaking the record for receptions in a single season with 149 catches in 2019.

That year was also the second straight year he led the league in receptions, the second straight campaign in which he was named a first-team All-Pro player and his first time as the NFL’s leader in receiving yards with 1,725, per Pro Football Reference.

Injury problems weighed Thomas down over the next three years and played a role in his alienation from the Saints franchise. He went down with a high ankle sprain in Week 1. He also missed games that season due to a hamstring pull.

Thomas missed the entire 2021 season due to lingering issues from that initial ankle sprain. The Saints initially recommended he get surgery to repair the ankle in January of that year, though Thomas sought a second opinion and ultimately declined the surgical option, per the Sporting News. He eventually reversed course and underwent a procedure much later in the offseason, which ultimately cost him the full year.

The public rift that developed between the Saints and Thomas due to arguments surrounding his injury, eventual surgery and rehabilitation served as the catalyst for what will be the receiver’s exit from the franchise come June 1.

Bears Displayed Propensity For Risk in Trade For Chase Claypool

Claypool Progress Week 15

GettyWide receiver Chase Claypool of the Chicago Bears runs the ball during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field on November 6, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

While his health issues remain a major concern — Thomas also missed 14 games in 2022 due to a toe injury and a subsequent surgery — the Bears have already shown a willingness to take big swings on calculated risks.

The Bears dealt their second-round pick, No. 32 overall, to the Pittsburgh Steelers in return for Chase Claypool. Giving up an asset that substantial for a wideout who was middling, at best, in 2022 is something of a harbinger for the types of moves the Bears are willing to make in free agency.

Thomas will play next season at the age of 30 and is well worth a significant investment if Chicago believes his health issues can, and will, turn around.

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