One of the key positions that new Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles will have to address this offseason will be the wide receiver position. Following a disappointing 2021 season, and multiple impending free-agent departures, Poles will have to overhaul the position as only Darnell Mooney and Dazz Newsome are currently under contract. Chicago’s new GM will have several guides on how to rebuild the wide receiver group for the 2022 season.
Poles will be responsible for replacing four wide receivers, as Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd, and Jakeem Grant are all slated to become free agents. Chicago’s new general manager replaces Ryan Pace, who was fired last month after serving as the Bears’ general manager for six seasons. During his six-year tenure with Chicago, Pace made significant offseason adjustments twice to the wide receiver position. Following the 2016 season, Chicago didn’t re-sign Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery. Pace replaced the loss of Jeffery with several free-agent signings, which included Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle.
Kevin White, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton … CHI receiving corps looks like your worst football card pack ever opened.
— Brad Evans (@NoisyHuevos) August 29, 2017
These four free agents would join Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, and Cameron Meredith. The receiver group for the 2017 Chicago Bears would be a disaster as none of the wide receivers provided any significant production. Cruz and Randel would be released before the start of the season, while Meredith and White were both on injured reserved just one week into the season. Wheaton, Bellamy, and Wright would combine for 86 receptions, 1,041 receiving yards, and two touchdown receptions.
None of the seven receivers with the Bears in 2017 would be with the team two seasons later. The production level was so bad at the position that Chicago would have two undrafted free agent wide receivers in Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride start during their Week 6 game against the Baltimore Ravens. The lack of talent at the position significantly hindered the growth of then-rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, as he only passed for seven touchdowns in 12 starts.
Tre McBride & Tanner Gentry likely starters at wide receiver for #Bears at #Ravens. Young guys with 5 combined career catches and big shot.
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) October 15, 2017
The following offseason, Pace reconstructed the receiver group again, addressing the position via free agency and the draft. He would sign Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson and deep threat Taylor Gabriel. During the 2018 NFL Draft, Pace traded up in the second round to draft Anthony Miller and later drafted Javon Wimms in the seventh round. The 2018 Bears would gain immense production from the position, as the four new receivers combined for 159 receptions, 1,897 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns.
The increased production would lead to the Bears finishing 21st in passing yards, which was ten spots higher than the year prior. Trubisky’s performance would improve as he finished with 24 touchdowns, half of which went to wide receivers. He was named to the Pro Bowl for his play in 2018. The big difference in improving the receiving group from 2017 to 2018 was that Pace acquired different receivers that excelled in different roles within the position.
Don’t 😴 on the receiving trio of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller this season in Chicago. pic.twitter.com/bLiyF1SYCQ
— PFF (@PFF) June 26, 2019
Due to the Bears’ new offensive coordinator in Luke Getsy, there have been rumors that Chicago could sign the best free-agent wide receiver in Davante Adams once the new league year begins in March. Although Adams is an All-Pro wide receiver, the contract that he would demand would not only limit what Poles can do to improve Chicago’s wide receiver position but for the entire roster during free agency. The Bears’ best option is to focus on finding lower-level yet still proven talent at the position in free agency and then address it later in the draft.
Ryan Poles isn’t emphasizing building through the draft and obtaining more picks then immediately spending the Bears entire cap space on 30 year old Davante Adams.
— Max Markham (@MaxMarkhamNFL) February 8, 2022
Adams will be the most sought after wide receiver during free agency, but there will be other top-level receivers available, including Chris Godwin, Michael Gallup, Jamison Crowder, Mike Williams, Christian Kirk, and Odell Beckham Jr. If Poles can sign one top-tier receiver, along with potentially re-signing Pro Bowl punt return and wide receiver Jakeem Grant, he can then take a receiver in the middle rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The other option for Poles is trading a draft selection for a proven wide receiver such as Calvin Ridley. Trading for Ridley would help free up money during free agency this offseason to where Poles could allocate a big contract for another position on the team. It would also allow the Bears to fill the receiver position with a mid-tier free agent and potentially a day three draft selection.
1. In the last 3 games Justin Fields has started and finished, he has accounted for an average of 304 yards of total offense.
With bad coaching, a makeshift OL, and average wide receivers.
He is going to be a player once the #Bears get him actual help.
— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) December 13, 2021
Poles’ main goal with reconstructing the wide receiver position for the Bears is to give second-year quarterback Justin Fields as many talented passing options as possible. Despite Mooney recording over 1,000 receiving yards last season, the Bears’ had little production from the rest of their wide receivers. The lack of production at the receiver position in 2021 was similar to that seen during Trubisky’s rookie season of 2017.
If Poles can add three talented wide receivers during the offseason to pair with Mooney and Newsome, the Bears will have one of the better wide receiver groups in the league. Providing Fields with as many quality wide receivers will be vital as a jump in the quarterback’s growth will lead to wins for the Bears in 2022. Former general manager Ryan Pace learned from his mistakes in 2017 and reconstructed the position better in 2018, which led to a division title and playoff berth for Chicago. Poles should follow this blueprint when preparing for free agency and the draft, which is approaching quickly.
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