Khalil Herbert's Value Too High for Thoughts of a Trade

Analysis: Suggestions Khalil Herbert is prime candidate to be traded ignore his high value for them this season.
Khalil Herbert might not figure as the Bears starter at running back but he's also too valuable to what they're doing this year to be traded.
Khalil Herbert might not figure as the Bears starter at running back but he's also too valuable to what they're doing this year to be traded. / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
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The thought running back Khalil Herbert could be traded has been gaining momentum among the wild rumor and conspiratorial section of Bears fans on social media.

It's based on a reputable enough source, although more a statement of opinion than a specific sourced report.

It came from a single comment made by The Athletic's Adam Jahns at the end of a section on Bears running backs within a roster projection.

"And yet, it wouldn't be surprising if Herbert is considered on the bubble at Halas Hall," Jahns wrote about Herbert.

The reason he gave for this is it's Herbert's contract year and the Bears signed De'Andre Swift in free agency.

As is usual with these types of things, readers took it and ran with it until they ran straight out of the wrong end zone with it. They're treating obvious speculation as accepted fact.

Reasons exist to think Herbert might not be with the team when the season begins or possibly just after the trading deadline.

Herbert will be a free agent after this season, he's definitely a good enough player to command more than a minimum contract next year and he's going from starter to backup duties because they signed D'Andre Swift. All of these can be called arguments he'll be traded. Also, Herbert is not a Ryan Poles draft pick. There's always that.

However, there are more reasons to think he's going nowhere except into the Bears backfield at times.

1. Insufficient Number of Backs

Last year the Bears went through their entire backfield and were signing people off the street by Week 4 due to injuries. They finished the Washington game with Khari Blasingame carrying the ball, but not just once or twice as a surprise or to kill the clock. He had eight carries. The last Bears fullback to rush at least eight times in a game was Curtis Enis in 2000, his final season with the team after he had been moved from running back to fullback because he lost speed and strength in his leg after knee surgery.

The Bears haven't had their starting running back play every game since John Fox's last season as coach, when Jordan Howard did it. They always have running backs injured and most teams find their backs get beaten up throughout the season at some point. Four running backs might not even be sufficient.

Take Herbert off the Bears roster and they'd better have a replacement coming in because they're not getting through the year with only D'Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson and Travis Homer at running back. Then again, maybe you think undrafted rookie Ian Wheeler from Howard University is destined for greatness. They also have him on the roster.

2. Would Have Traded Him Already

If they weren't planning to keep Herbert, then trading him already would have made more sense than to teach him the offense and have him on the roster heading to training camp. They could have acquired a pick for this past draft if they wanted to trade him.  A new third running back would need to come in without the benefit of offseason work in the offense when it was installed.

If they waited this long, then they're better off just keeping him as an insurance policy.

3. He's Too Valuable

Herbert definitely isn't the asset as a receiver Swift is, however, he isn't terrible at it and his running ability was good enough to give him the league running back title for yards per carry (5.7) for backs with 100 carries or more in 2022. He didn't get to be starter last year by being a poor player. His speed is comparable to Swift's. In fact, he ran a 4.46-second 40 at the combine and Swift ran just 4.48.

There's also a part to Herbert's game the Bears haven't used in a while and could this year. He returned kicks in the past and when special teams coordinator Richard Hightower talked to media kick returner and hwith the new rules setting it up for two returns back deep, during offseason work, he included Herbert in with players who are potential return men. Herbert could be a player who helps them take advantage of the new kick return rules if they put two men back on returns.

4. It's Not Cost-Effective

Herbert's value to the Bears his greater than what he would likely bring in a trade. He missed nine games due to injuries since his rookie season. A player who was on the field for 301 and 357 offensive plays the last two seasons is unlikely to bring back a huge return in a trade.

He's too valuable to cut because of his skill but he is only costing them $1.088 million this year. You won't find a better bargain and if he's traded the return would only be a Day 3 draft pick. They'd be better off keeping him and then drafting someone next year.

5. Swift

Even though the Bears paid $24 million over three years for Swift, there must be some questions about him after he failed to gain 100 yards after Week 3 last season.

Having a back around who has been starter is an asset if things don't work out with a new player.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.