Bears ‘Serious Suitors’ for Former No. 2 Pick, Projected $36 Million RB

Saquon Barkley

Getty Running back Saquon Barkley is about to be a free agent.

The Chicago Bears are among a handful of teams that could end up a player for running backs on the expensive end of the free agent market, including Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants.

Jordan Raanan of ESPN reported on Sunday, March 10 that the Bears are “serious suitors” for Barkley less than 24 hours ahead of the opening of the league’s legal tampering period Monday.

“The belief is there is still enough shine left in Barkley’s game that at least one team will be willing to stretch into double-digits for his services,” Raanan wrote. “Undoubtedly, there will be interest in landing what most seem to think is the top running back available. The Los Angeles ChargersBaltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears are believed to be serious suitors.”

Saquon Barkley Among NFL’s Best RBs, Also Likely Among Most Expensive

Giants insider reports NYG not interested in paying Saquon Barkley $10 million contract.

GettyNew York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

The free agent running back class is deep in 2024, which makes Barkley something of a risk/reward play.

He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and has eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in three of the five seasons in which he has played at least 13 games (he also put up 962 rushing yards in 14 appearances in 2023). If he remains healthy, Barkley is a 27-year-old dual-threat back and a workhorse with All-Pro potential.

However, injuries have plagued Barkley during his less productive campaigns. Beyond that, Pro Football Focus projects Barkley will sign a three-year contract worth $36 million total this offseason, which would make him among the highest-paid players in the league at his position.

“Barkley held out for a short period this past offseason before returning to play on his franchise tag, plus a few incentives that he had close to zero chance of earning,” PFF wrote. “Barkley is still capable of breaking off an explosive rush at any moment and made several highlight reel catches in 2023. … There’s no doubt Barkley’s highs are as high as any running back in the game, but the position market is a tricky landscape to navigate in 2024, especially with his missing extended time in three out of the past four seasons.”

Bears Can Justify Taking Risk, Paying Saquon Barkley

Raiders' Josh Jacobs called candidate to replace Giants' Saquon Barkley.

GettyNew York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

The Bears have nearly $63 million in 2024 salary cap space available as of Monday and are one of the few teams capable of spending significantly on a running back while still maintaining enough financial flexibility to meaningfully address other positions of need.

Also in Chicago’s favor are the facts that the team selects twice in the top 10 of this April’s draft (Nos. 1 and 9 overall) and will likely reset the contract clock at quarterback by drafting elite prospect Caleb Williams out of USC first overall. The subsequent trade of Justin Fields should bring back Day-2 value, which offers the Bears yet another chance to draft a high-level prospect at a premium position.

The Bears are spending approximately $3 million at running back between Khalil Herbert ($1.9 million against the cap) and Roschon Johnson ($1.1 million) this upcoming season, which further justifies a move for a player of Barkley’s caliber and cost.

It is the third year on a prospective deal for Barkley that represents the most risk to Chicago, though the team can minimize that by guaranteeing just over half of PFF’s proposed $36 million contract ($18.5 million, which the website predicted the Bears will do in its market projection).

Chicago should field a young offense on the rise with Williams under center next season, and a player like Barkley will make his transition to the NFL vastly easier — assuming Barkley can stay on the field.

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