As speculation about the Bears’ future direction continues to grow, it’s important to take a deep look inside the roster to understand what’s already there.
It means looking at worthy young players to build around.
Similar to most NFL scoring systems, my rating scale ranks players: top players, long-term newbies, newbies, beginners marginal, reserve / special teams, and below-level players. replacement.
At the end of the 2021 season, I’ll be releasing my final scores for the season again, but with six games to go, there’s still time to assess the key elements that can fit into a long-term future.
Below is a list of players still on rookie contracts to consider:
LB Roquan Smith, 24
Smith is playing at an All-Pro level this year and the Bears have already guaranteed him a fifth-year overtime that is expected to net him just over $ 9.7 million in 2022. A long-term overtime beyond that is just fine. only a matter of when, not if.
RB David Montgomery, 24
Even though a sprained knee caused Montgomery to miss four games and slowed his hot start to the season, the third-year running back has had a great season. Of course, his position complicates the situation because it’s usually not a good idea to give running backs big contracts.
Montgomery showed up to training camp this year with an extra flurry and while that flurry likely took a hit after the knee injury, the 24-year-old’s work ethic and upward skills are something that the Bears should like it.
The Bears have already given Matt Forte a four-year, $ 30.4 million contract and haven’t regretted it. Montgomery still has a year on his rookie deal, but his value to the Bears is similar to Forte’s.
QB Justin Fields, 22
It might be surprising to see Fields already on this list, but he ranked much better than his numbers suggest. He’s still a rookie so there’s no need to talk about his contract, but the Bears should feel good that their first-round pick is already playing at a level that suggests he’s a long-term starter.
WR Darnell Mooney, 24
The Tulane second-year wide receiver has built on his promising rookie season and is an undisputed starting caliber spread in the NFL. Will he one day be a clear No. 1 receiver? The jury is still out on him, but he’s been the Bears’ best pass-detection option this season and looks like a play in the long run.
CB Jaylon Johnson, 22
It wasn’t until his second season away from Utah that Johnson has already passed Kyle Fuller, the former No.1 corner kicker. Unlike Fuller, Johnson can keep up with opposing No.1 wide receivers when needed, allowing defensive coordinator Sean Desai more flexibility with his defense from week to week.
Johnson will need to rack up more interceptions (he only has one career INT at this point) if he is to be paid big in a few years, but with the Bears’ other cornerback issues right now, he doesn’t. is not much focused.
More difficult decisions
RG James Daniels, 24
Drafted young, Daniels is still only 24, but his contract expires in March. He brings valuable versatility to the offense, having previously played both goalie and center at the NFL level. Daniels showed signs of becoming a dominant guard in early 2020 before tearing a pectoral muscle, but he has always been a very solid player this year.
Can you progress to this position? Sure. But Daniels is still a starting-caliber NFL goalie.
C Sam Mustipher, 25 years old
Mustipher is a player to watch closely in the last six games of the season. He’s technically playing at a starting caliber level in my scoring system, but he’s also about to be a marginal newbie. A restricted free agent in the offseason, the Bears appreciate Mustipher for his football IQ at center position and he’s still young enough to improve a lot.
DT Bilal Nichols, 25
It’s been a fairly quiet season for Nichols after a stellar year in 2020. No one would have been surprised if the Bears had extended Nichols before the season started, but now you have to wonder if his value has gone down.
Keep an eye on
TE Cole Kmet, 22
Overall, Kmet has played at a marginal starting level this season, but in the last three games he has shown strong and been classified as a long-term starter. I still have very high expectations for Kmet, whom I have always compared to Kyle Rudolph – a former Minnesota Vikings starter for a decade.
OLB Trévis Gipson, 24 years old
Quite quietly, the 2020 Bears’ fifth-round pick has had a very encouraging season. His rookie year was essentially a red shirt year as he went from a technical five in Tulsa to an edge rusher in the NFL, but there are certainly signs he’s developing.
RB Khalil Herbert, 23
The Virginia Tech sixth-round rookie is proving to be a valuable piece as a running back and return. He replaced Montgomery very well and it is not excluded that Herbert could become a long-term running back. That said, it would be very unfair for Montgomery to say that the two running backs are already at the same level.
OT Larry Borom Jr., 22, and OT Teven Jenkins, 23
The Bears’ two rookie tackles have barely played, with Borom getting the last four starts on the right side and Jenkins still in rehabilitation after back surgery in August.