Even teams with a Tom Brady on the roster, teams go through “cycles.” One year you might let free agents leave and accumulate compensatory picks, another year you might throw the bag at a bunch of free agents. It seems just yesterday teams like the Dolphins and Lions were tanking and now they are competing. Burn the old wood to create room and resources for the new growth.
The Bears had a bit of a bump in that cycle with the failure of the Matt Nagy experiment. They needed 2022 as a “bridge year” as Luke Getsy took over the offense and Matt Eberflus started converting the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3. They've crossed that bridge and are back on the track to a championship. The Chicago Bears are in the most exciting part of the cycle - the upswing.
With this series, we are taking a look at each NFL team to gauge the direction of the offense from a dynasty fantasy football perspective. Is this team gearing up for a Super Bowl run? Are they in the midst of a rebuild? Are they considering blowing it up? We’ll take all of that into account as well as the current contracts, upcoming free agents, and 2023 NFL draft class to give you our best recommendations on how to handle these weapons in your dynasty fantasy football leagues.
BUY - Attempt to acquire this player at or slightly above market value
HOLD - The player is likely more valuable than the market indicates. Hold them if you have them or try to acquire them at a discount.
SELL - The perceived value for this player is higher than the projected remaining value in your average dynasty league. Cash out now.
SELL/DROP - Depending on the depth of the league, always try to sell guys before dropping. But this player is likely not worth the bench spot he’s occupying so you might need to just drop them.
*Contract information is proved courtesy of Spotrac.com*
Chicago Bears Quarterback
The Bears have two quarterbacks under contract for 2023
Justin Fields - Age 23
Contract: Justin Fields was drafted in the first round of 2021 meaning he’s signed through 2024. They can pick up his fifth-year option to keep him for 2025.
Outlook: Fields had arguably the worst receiving corps in the league coming into the season and that issue was compounded by an injury to Darnell Mooney. That’s mainly why the Bears finished dead last in passing yards this season. That said, Fields flashed incredible potential both with his legs and arm when he had the chance to make big plays. The upside is exciting and the question now is whether he can take that step forward the way guys like Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts did. The common denominator between all three is their mobility but the difference is that the Bills and Eagles went out and got high-end weapons for their QBs.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - When it comes to quarterbacks in fantasy football, it’s truly important to gauge the feeling around the team. What direction are they moving in? Are there rumors that the QB’s job is in jeopardy? What about the coach’s job? As we mentioned, the Bears were clearly running a pseudo-bridge year as they just changed coaches last off-season. And, in regards to the QB’s job, general manager Ryan Poles already came out and said it was incredibly unlikely the Bears draft a quarterback in the first round (despite what LeSean McCoy has to say). That tells us the Bears are ready to build around Fields so maybe they do add the weapons needed for him to take that step. We have Fields as a “hold” but that’s mostly because the asking price for him right now is fairly high. If you can get him for a reasonable price then go for it as they should start adding weapons for him to go along with his “Konami Code” rushing upside.
Trevor Siemian - Age 31
Contract: Siemian is under contract for 2023 but can be released with $500K in dead cap and just under $2 million in savings.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL/DROP - Siemian has virtually no upside or value in any format.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
At this stage of the game, it's looking like a near certainty that the Bears trade the first-overall pick, so they aren't likely to bring in a QB to compete for the job. What the Bears do need is a viable backup QB if they are serious about making a run any time soon. Look around the league - for two straight years now, virtually every mobile quarterback outside of Josh Allen got nicked up and missed time, including Fields for the second year in a row. You need someone who can at least hold it together if your guy misses a couple of games (the Eagles came dangerously close to losing the first round playoff bye week when Jalen Hurts went down). The Bears could use a later pick on a QB, but there are going to be a number of veterans in free agency this year with enough mobility to backup Justin Fields. Guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Taylor Heinicke, Tyler Huntley etc. could all be viable options where you wouldn’t need to tweak the playbook too much if the backup comes in. Those guys likely aren’t going to come super cheap though, so perhaps a Day 3 draft pick makes more sense.
Chicago Bears Running Backs
The Bears have two running backs under contract and one back who is an exclusive right free agent.
Trestan Ebner - Age 24
Contract: Trestan Ebner was drafted in 2022 so he is under contract on a rookie deal through 2025. He can be released for $124K in dead cap with $787K in savings.
Outlook: Ebner is technically the most expensive running back under contract right now but not by much. His usage was fairly limited when everyone was healthy, but he did step up in games when either David Montgomery or Khalil Herbert were injured. In college, he was pretty consistent in the passing game and he ran a speedy 4.43 forty at the combine so that’s likely his path to relevance if he can carve out a role on third downs.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD - I wouldn’t go crazy acquiring Ebner but, if you already have him on the roster or he’s sitting on the wire, he’s not a bad stash while we wait to see what happens with David Montgomery. If the Bears do decide to go into the season with Khalil Herbert as the starter and Ebner as the third down back, he could have some appeal in deeper leagues but keep in mind that it’s been statistically proven that mobile QBs target the running back less frequently than their pocket passing counterparts. If they add anyone of note, you can just drop Ebner going into your rookie draft.
Khalil Herbert - Age 24
Contract: Herbert is under contract through 2024. He can be released this year with $65K in dead cap, $907K in savings.
Outlook: Much like Alexander Mattison on the division rival Vikings, Khalil Herbert has been one of the better backup running backs in the league over the last two years, filling in valiantly whenever David Montgomery is out. In fact, he was fairly productive even when Montgomery was healthy and, despite missing four games himself, his 731 rushing yards were more than guys like Leonard Fournette, Antonio Gibson, and D’Andre Swift.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - With David Montgomery currently unsigned, Herbert’s value might never be higher. If someone in your league thinks he’ll be the starter and wants to take that risk for a second round pick or better, I’d let them take that off your hands. That’s a nice price to cash out on for a sixth round pick that has never actually started. The problem here is twofold. One, is that the Bears are not only still discussing an extension with David Montgomery but there are rumors about potentially signing someone like Saquon Barkley. Two, is that they have a highly mobile quarterback which can hurt running backs in fantasy football. Yes, plays like RPOs can open up the run game but mobile QBs target the RB less in the passing game plus they vulture touchdowns. Look at guys like Miles Sanders and Devin Singletary. They are quite efficient when they actually get the ball (Sanders has a career YPA over 5) but they do most of their work between the 20s. Despite missing two games, Jalen Hurts still had the second most carries inside the five yard line of any player. Justin Fields was in the top 12 for that stat as well despite also missing two games. The inconsistency that comes with that hurts your RB so we're willing to cash out on Herbert now if there is a buyer.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
David Montgomery is a free agent (and we will have another article specifically looking at free agents at each position as we get closer to free agency). Our of Montgomery, Herbert, and Ebner, Monty is still the one I'd prefer to buy at his current cost. And I actually like him best if he LEAVES the Bears and goes somewhere where he can be featured more heavily in the passing game. Or where he’ll have a better offensive line. As for the Bears, Herbert can likely be a start in this league so they don’t need to bring back Monty or bring in a stud like Saquon but they do have to do something as you can’t just roll into the season with two guys. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them use their high-end assets elsewhere this offseason and just fill out the backfield with a complimentary piece like a Kareem Hunt or a Samaje Perine. My main concern with acquiring the incumbent guys like Khalil Herbert and Treston Ebner is that they are teetering dangerously close to the edge where their long-term value can be crushed with one signing or draft pick. Such is the life of Day Three picks.
Chicago Bears Wide Receivers
The Bears have three wide receivers under contract with another three signed to reserve/future contracts.
Chase Claypool- Age 24
Contract: Claypool is on the last year of his rookie deal then will be a free agent in 2024. The Bears traded for Claypool meaning they aren’t responsible for any guaranteed money - he can be released for just under $3 million in savings and no dead cap.
Outlook: The Bears traded a second round pick for Claypool so it’s fairly unlikely they release him after only seven games in a Bears uniform. He flashed upside with the Steelers but didn’t show much with the Bears as he had one 51-yard game and didn’t crack 30 yards in any of the others.
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - I’m willing to take the risk on Claypool at his current depressed dynasty value. Let’s take a closer look at some of the circumstances. The main red flag is the attitude concerns but that’s not likely the only reason the Steelers were willing to part with Claypool. They need to pay Diontae Johnson and seemingly just hit on pass catchers George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth in recent drafts so they probably weren’t going to extend him anyway. We’ve seen the Steelers move on from guys because their WR room was too crowded before - just because Antonio Brown was awesome didn’t mean that Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace became irrelevant in fantasy. Quite the opposite, especially for Sanders.
The other reason I’m willing to give him a shot is the timeline. Here are the snap counts for Justin Fields and Claypool on the Bears. Green games are ones where they played more than half the offensive snaps.
- His first game was Week 9 and it takes time to learn an NFL playbook. That's especially true coming from the Steelers, who run the Earhardt-Perkins system to the Bears who run a West Coast-style offense. He never cracked 50% of the snaps in the first couple of games.
- In Week 12, he played 67% of the snaps but Justin Fields missed that game with a shoulder injury
- In Week 13, Claypool caught 5 of 6 targets but then left the game with a knee injury
- Claypool didn’t return until Week 17 where he was eased back in coming off the injury (37%) of snaps.
- In Week 18, he played 71% of snaps but Justin Fields missed that game with a knee injury.
So we really haven’t seen them play together outside of the one game where they both played more than 50% of the snaps. And in that game Claypool got 6 targets before leaving with a knee injury. By the way, that game was also against the Green Bay Packers and Jaire Alexander, the week after the Bears lost Darnell Mooney for the season.
Velus Jones Jr. - Age 25
Contract: Velus Jones was a third round pick in 2022 so he’s under contract through 2025. It’s unrealistic to release him in 2023 given the fact that his dead cap (over $800K) would be double the savings.
Outlook: Not an ideal start from the rookie, especially considering he was an older prospect and you expect them to be more polished and contribute right away. He suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason, a setback that cost him three games, but the bigger indictment was mid-season in Weeks 9 and 10 when he was a healthy scratch.
Dynasty Recommendation: SELL - This is a tough sell because there weren’t many fans of him in the first place when you consider his lack of college production combined with his late breakout age. He has blazing speed but so does Darnell Mooney who is already in place. And Jones being a healthy scratch the week they trade for Claypool felt like the nail in the coffin here. I wouldn’t just flat-out drop him if no one is buying but I’d take just about anything for him.
Darnell Mooney- Age 25
Contract: Mooney is on the last year of his rookie deal this year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He could technically be released with a ~$70K hit for just under $3 million in savings.
Outlook: Mooney was a popular breakout candidate this year after an impressive 2021. He struggled out of the gate but leveled off mid-season before suffering a season-ending injury. The silver lining is that the ankle injury he suffered doesn’t require the lengthy rehab that an ACL or Achilles injury might have so he’s expected back for early off-season workouts in the spring.
Dynasty Recommendation: HOLD/SELL - We had Mooney as a guy you should cash out on two offseasons in a row now. And we’ll admit, we were wrong about that in 2021 as he had a great season that year and definitely increased his trade value. But it’s starting to look like maybe last off-season was his peak value in dynasty. A big part of the reason we wanted to cash out while we could is the numbers game associated with late round wide receivers. The hit rate for Day 3 WRs (fourth through seventh round) is generally at or below 5% depending on where you set the bar (I consider a “hit” as a single top-24 WR season in which case that number is around 5%). Guys from that range can pop at times when there are no other targets in town (or they fell in the draft for some reason, as we outlined here). But they often fall to the wayside as teams complete their rebuild and start trying to compete. A lot of these guys that count as “hits” are guys that were just barely relevant or had a single good year like Brian Hartline.
That said, the window to sell Mooney has briefly closed based on his performance this year and the injury. I would hold him for now since this free agent WR market is pretty slim and his value should bounce back when everyone sees he’s healthy and good go to. Even if the Bears do sign a slot guy like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Jakobi Meyers, Mooney should still have some trade value as many fantasy gamers feel Claypool isn’t really a threat (which I believe is a mistake). If you are worried the Bears add a WR via trade, free agency, or the draft, you might just want to sell now Mooney now though.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
As of this moment, the Bears have a split end in Chase Claypool and a flanker in Darnell Mooney under contract for 2023. Cole Kmet operates out of the slot fairly often but they really could use a true slot WR. Not to mention, both Mooney and Claypool are free agents after this season so they might start making plans for the future now. The free agent WR market isn’t great in general but it does have a number of slot guys at varying levels of age and ability like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jakobi Meyers, Sterling Shepard, Jarvis Landry, Richie James, Parris Campbell etc. Campbell and Fields never overlapped as Buckeyes since Fields transferred from Georgia the year that Campbell was drafted but there still might be a little bit of the old college spirit there since they both played for THE Ohio State. Speaking of slot guys from Ohio State, they might also have some interest in Field’s former teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba though that will likely cost them a late first or second round pick (many expect Chicago to trade back from 1 overall). The Bears only have three WRs under contract so they have to fill out this depth chart somehow, either at the top or the bottom.
Chicago Bears Tight Ends
The Bears have one tight end under contract and two signed to reserve/future contracts.
Cole Kmet - Age 23
Contract: Cole Kmet is going into the final year of his rookie deal and then he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
Outlook: It wasn’t always pretty but Kmet did manage to finish as a TE1 in fantasy football as the TE8 in PPR. He tied for the third most touchdowns of any tight end with seven. As our buddy Schuyler Amalak of JWB Fantasy Points out, Kmet pulled a bit of a 2020 Logan Thomas where he started incredibly slow then popped off down the stretch (Thomas was TE26 through six weeks but finished as TE4 overall).
Dynasty Recommendation: BUY - Our official policy on tight ends is the SORT method - Start Opportunity, Roster Talent. The short and sweet is that you want as many talented/athletic players as possible but, if you are competing now, you need to start someone that actually has the opportunity. Delanie Walker didn’t get out from behind Vernon Davis and blow up for fantasy until he was THIRTY years old. It didn’t matter how athletic he was or the potential upside - he wasn’t helping your fantasy team. That’s a big part of why it’s so rare for young tight ends to produce right away but Kmet managed to push Jimmy Graham aside fairly quickly and claim a pass-catching role early on. Kmet was literally playing 100% of the snaps at times this season and his lowest snap total on the season was 83% in Week 1 so you have to be happy with what you are seeing. If you can grab him for a reasonable price, I would do it.
Free Agency/Draft Outlook
They have their starting tight end in Cole Kmet for 2023 and, based on some quotes from GM Ryan Poles, they like the step forward that he took this year. That makes him a candidate for an early extension this off-season. Even if the Bears extend Kmet, they can’t just go into the season with one tight end so they need to fill out this room. If you are a Kmet fan, you are rooting for them to add two types of players.
The ideal one would be a pure blocking tight end that would allow Kmet to focus on pass catching (see Mark Andrews with Nick Boyle). The next best would be a similarly well-rounded tight end that does the same things as Kmet (only worse) to serve as the pure backup. The worst outcome would be for them to bring in a pass-catching tight end that would make Kmet the “two way” tight end or even the blocking tight end.
An example of how this hurts would be the Eagles with Dallas Goedert in-line and Zach Ertz playing the slot or the Titans a couple of years ago with Jonnu Smith as the starter but Anthony Firkser playing sporadically and stealing slot snaps and/or targets. If you are rooting for Cole Kmet in fantasy, you DEFINITELY don’t want this team signing someone like Mike Gesicki or Evan Engram but you also don’t want them signing a Dan Arnold or Anthony Firkser either. We don’t want ANYONE taking pass snaps besides Kmet.
The ideal offseason for Kmet would be for him to get an extension, they sign a blocking tight end like Drew Sample or MyCole Pruitt, then maybe draft a meaningless third guy in the sixth or seventh round.
Follow Andrew Cooper on Twitter @CoopAFiasco for more NFL and fantasy football insights and stay tuned as we hit on all 32 NFL teams in this series leading into NFL free agency!