3 Players Bears Must Target in Offseason to Maximize Justin Fields' Potential

Joe TanseyNovember 9, 2022

3 Players Bears Must Target in Offseason to Maximize Justin Fields' Potential

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields carries the ball during an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
    AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

    The Chicago Bears set the wheels in motion for the 2023 season with a few moves ahead of the NFL trade deadline.

    The departures of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens, respectively, took some big defensive names off the books for next year, and the Bears landed wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    All of those moves should affect the future of the team, which will be fronted by Justin Fields.

    However, the Bears still need to upgrade the core of skill position players around the 23-year-old quarterback in order to make a leap in the NFC North.

    Chicago does not need to sign the biggest names on the market, but it does need to find the most effective weapons to help Fields take another step forward in his third season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

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    Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster celebrates a first down catch against the Tennessee Titans during overtime in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
    AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

    Chicago may not be collecting former Steelers wide receivers purposely, but JuJu Smith-Schuster could be the best one on the free-agent market if he continues to play well for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The 25-year-old signed a one-year deal with Kansas City in an attempt to boost his stock ahead of the 2023 free-agent window in which he could make more money off a healthy season.

    Smith-Schuster has over 80 receiving yards in four of his last six games. He has become one of Patrick Mahomes' most trustworthy targets, and his production should remain the same as the Chiefs chase a top seed in the AFC.

    The addition of Claypool helped bolster the Bears' wide receiver corps, but they still need more weapons to compete in a division in which the leading team has Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen at wide receiver.

    Claypool, Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones Jr. are the only wideouts currently under contract with the Bears for 2023, per Spotrac, so there should be a significant push by general manager Ryan Poles to sign another playmaker.

    Smith-Schuster is likely to have plenty of options if he continues to play well in Kansas City, so the Bears may have to spend a good amount of money on him or look elsewhere.

Mecole Hardman

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    Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) runs against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
    AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

    The Bears landed one former Kansas City wide receiver this past offseason, and former Chiefs may be their best route in free agency in 2023.

    The Byron Pringle signing has not worked out due to him being on injured reserve, but that does not mean the Bears should stop trying to land Patrick Mahomes' top targets.

    Mecole Hardman has become an even more important part of the Kansas City offense in 2022 with Pringle and Demarcus Robinson on new teams.

    Hardman is currently on a three-game scoring streak and appears to be the clear No. 2 behind Smith-Schuster on the wide receiver depth chart.

    The 24-year-old will be an intriguing target for many teams in free agency, but what the Bears and others have to figure out is whether he can be a No. 1 wideout.

    If that isn't the case, the Bears will have to trust Claypool and Mooney can shoulder the load at the position next season.

    If Claypool and Mooney are the top guys, the Bears could look to someone like Hardman to build a high level of depth at the position

    Of course, the Bears do not have to exclusively look at the Kansas City roster for free-agent additions, but Smith-Schuster and Hardman would be intriguing fits inside their offense.

James Robinson

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    New York Jets' James Robinson (23) runs past Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    AP Photo/John Minchillo

    The Bears find themselves in a tough spot at running back.

    David Montgomery is scheduled to become a free agent, and they already have Khalil Herbert ready to take over the starting spot.

    If Montgomery walks in free agency, though, the Bears will still need to add running back depth, whether it be through free agency or the 2023 NFL draft.

    Chicago could trust its scouting department to land another gem, like Montgomery and Herbert, or it could look to a young running back on the free-agent market, such as James Robinson, who could complement Herbert.

    Robinson was squeezed out in Jacksonville by Travis Etienne's development, and he is a short-term fix with the New York Jets while Breece Hall is out injured.

    The 24-year-old can boost his stock over the next few weeks and may intrigue the Bears because of his dual threat out of the backfield.

    He has 91 receptions, 6.8 yards per catch and 4.5 yards per rush in his young career. He would entering his fourth year in 2023.

    Robinson has already been a No. 1 running back in Jacksonville before, which could help the Bears with developing Herbert into their top ball-carrier.

    Herbert and Robinson would give the Bears a nice balance at running back, and it would stop the team from suffering a huge drop off in quality if Montgomery leaves.