Taking a Flyer on a Flyer

The Bears would love to add speed at receiver and in free agency there is the opportunity to add the fastest receiver of all at what could be a low price, but there is risk involved
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The trio of speed receivers Kansas City trots onto the field each week has to make Matt Nagy jealous.

The Bears have one fast receiver in Darnell Mooney, and the rest are plodders by comparison. 

To make his Bears offense work like the Chiefs offense works, better speed at wide receiver would be a tremendous help to Nagy.

Whether or not they retain Allen Robinson makes little difference because there are opportunities in free agency and also the draft this year to add maybe one less expensive speed receiver. 

Pro days began Friday with the bulk of them getting under way in earnest next week, and those 40 times will be closely watched since there is no combine this year. 

If you're going to go for speed, the best source logically is the fastest player alive and he's available as a free agent. 

It's also difficult to see him costing any team much in terms of cash.

Would the Bears take a flyer on a flyer? The man, the myth, the legend, John Ross III himself, is a free agent. 

No one in NFL history ever ran a faster combine time in the 40-yard dash than Ross.

In the 2017 combine, Ross ran the 40 in 4.22 secondsno stop watch, no 39-yard pro day dash. Ross burned a laser-timed 4.22 and has ridden that time like a horse through four seasons of failure as an NFL player.

Is it worth trying to sign him with hopes of coaxing out the dangerous threat to defenses still almost totally untapped?

Two years ago at the combine, Ross' name came up linked to the Bears in a report by Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline. Nothing came of it, of course. Ross would have had to be traded and the cost would have been great.  After two years, it seemed highly possible he could still unleash his feared speed on defenses in the NFL. 

Two years later Ross has done very little other than tease. If he simply couldn't play the game, then scouts and personnel people could look the other way but there's enough production to think otherwise.

Ross has caught only 51 passes. He has a horribly low catch percentage, hauling in 41.5% of the throws when targeted. He's been over 36.2% once.

However, he has averaged a very healthy 14.4 yards per catch when he does get his hands on the ball. Even bigger than this, 10 of his 51 receptions have gone for touchdowns.

All this does is make you look at him and say it's still in there somewheresomeone just has to bring it out of him. Andy Dalton didn't. Could Matt Nagy and whoever the Bears use at quarterback?

The biggest problem Ross has is he's a "track man."

That's a football term for fast guys with nagging injuries, which is why there are quotes around the words.

No offense to track athletes everywhere and their great sport, but it's a common term reinforced constantly because the slightest little thing seems to set them off of their games. It's simply the nature of what's required in their sportto be at optimum health to perform.

Ross carries this over to the football field, where it's frowned upon by tough guys.

Ross missed four games with a knee injury as a rookie, then the last four on IR with a shoulder injury. He played only three games total. In 2018, a nagging groin injury cost him three games. He had a shoulder injury in 2019 and missed nine weeks on IR. In 2020 he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list in training camp, then missed games due to non-COVID illness before going on IR with a foot injury.

In all, Ross has played in only 27 of a possible 64 games with 20 starts.

Yet, through it all, there is that blazing speed still and the possibility of stretching defenses buried within.

Last year the Bears took a low-budget approach at Z receiver to back up Darnell Mooney and added Ted Ginn Jr. Both Ginn and the Bears talked up his speed even at age 35. After one big fourth-down catch against Atlanta, Ginn was eventually cut.

Mooney didn't need a hand holder.

Adding another receiver for four-receiver sets, one who is only 26 years old and runs a 4.22 40, definitely has to be studied.

There are plenty of other fast receivers in free agency this year at higher prices, like Sammy Watkins, Nelson Agholor and Breshad Perriman.  

After four years of seeing only flashes of the potential brilliance from Ross, the Bears and other NFL teams have to wonder if they can be the ones to get the talent out of him and how much it will cost them in free agency to try.

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