This offseason was supposed to be a rebirth for the Chicago Bears and while it has been transformative in some way, it has fallen short of transcendent.
General manager Ryan Poles orchestrated a blockbuster trade that landed the team a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver in DJ Moore as well as a haul of picks, several coming in future drafts, while cementing Justin Fields’ starting spot at quarterback. But aside from that, one can argue that the most appropriate way to describe the Bears’ offseason is “meh.”
The franchise has a chance to change that by making another splashy trade ahead of the 2023 campaign. Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report proposed a deal on Wednesday, May 31, that would see Chicago land two-time Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley from the New York Giants.
When it looked like Saquon Barkley was headed for free agency, the Bears were the odds-on favorite to land the talented running back.
The fit made a lot of sense. David Montgomery was a free agent, Chicago had plenty of cap space, and the idea of putting a dynamic running back beside Justin Field in the backfield could open up the Bears’ offense. Not a whole lot has changed there.
A trade for Barkley would give the Bears one of the best groups of talent around their quarterback in the league. If they could do it for less than what the [San Francisco 49ers] gave up to get Christian McCaffrey (four picks), it’s a move worth exploring.
Bears Can Make Waves by Trading for Saquon Barkley
The Bears have the draft capital necessary to make a move for Barkley, who is currently absent from the Giants’ OTAs as he attempts to negotiate a contract in place of the franchise tag New York applied to him ahead of his sixth professional season.
Barkley is set to make just shy of $10.1 million in 2023, which certainly won’t have him living in the poor house. That said, running back is the most devalued position in the NFL and a multiyear deal is crucial to a talent like Barkley whose resume is marred by a serious injury.
The Giants just invested massively into quarterback Daniel Jones (four years, $160 million), and a play to pick up draft assets to surround him isn’t the worst idea for a new management team in New York heading into its second season on the strength of a playoff run in 2022.
Chicago, on the other hand, can spice up what would otherwise have been a bland offseason since trading the No. 1 overall pick for the Carolina Panthers. Bill Barnwell of ESPN took Poles to task on May 30 over his inability to land a left tackle or an edge rusher, despite a load of picks and the most salary cap space in the league.
“In an offseason in which Poles had about $75 million in cap space and four of the top 64 picks in the draft, I’m a little shocked he didn’t manage to come away with a left tackle or a significant edge rusher,” Barnwell wrote.
Chicago’s highest profile free agent signing was linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, to a four-year deal worth $72 million. While Edmunds is unquestionably good, he has not been “consistently great,” as Barnwell put it.
If the Bears aren’t going to add a premium pass rusher or a 10-year tackle to protect Fields’ blindside this offseason, they need to do something meaningful with the nearly $32.6 million in remaining salary cap space at their disposal. Putting Barkley next to Fields in an offense with several downfield weapons would be a heck of a start.
Saquon Barkley Would Be Best Option in Crowded Bears Running Back Room
It is difficult to look at Barkley’s five-year tenure in the NFL and argue that the Giants haven’t largely wasted it. The former No. 2 overall pick has been to the postseason just once, playing in just two playoff games despite being one of the best players in the league at his position.
Barkley exploded onto the scene in 2018, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and earning the first of two Pro Bowl trips on the strength of 1,307 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
Somewhat ironically, at least where this article is concerned, Barkley tore his ACL two years later against the Bears in Week 2 of the 2020 season. He was mediocre in 13 games the following campaign, but re-established himself as a Pro Bowl player in 2022 by amassing a career-high 1,312 rushing yards and scoring 10 rushing TDs.
Chicago drafted Roschon Johnson, then added D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency. Khalil Herbert also remains on the roster, rendering the running back room already fairly crowded. But talents like Barkley are rare and if the Bears have a shot to land him while he is still in his prime, that is a risk Chicago must consider taking.