The Five Biggest Mistakes the Bears Could Make

Analysis: If the Bears want to derail the express they seem to have going toward the start of this season, any one of five things could contribute to it.
Why would the Bears rush to extend Keenan Allen's contract when DJ Moore is already underpaid as their top receiver?
Why would the Bears rush to extend Keenan Allen's contract when DJ Moore is already underpaid as their top receiver? / Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Bears GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus spent two full seasons and this offseason getting into position to take a run at the playoffs in the third year of a rebuild.

Rebuilds requiring more than three years before achieving success in the NFL are rare these days, so the Bears are reaching the critical point.

They are an example of a franchise that gutted everything and began virtually from the foundation. Eberflus often has referred to the first year and even the offseason of Year 2 as laying a foundation.

None of this should matter. It's a time in the NFL when everything happens fast and there is no time for people who can't get the job done in three years.

As anyone who ever built a house can attest, foundations do crack and it can be a big headache. This team thought to have playoff potential can head entirely down the wrong path by making a few wrong moves in coming months.

Here are the worst possible things the Bears could do as they head to training camp break.

5. Sign Caleb Williams Before Jayden Daniels Signs

Although signings are more or less slotted, the first pick of the draft should come in with the best possible contract.

As long as the second pick, Daniels, is unsigned, the possibility exists there could be something more Washington is doing for its rookie quarterback than the top pick is getting.

The Bears spent February, March and most of April trying to build up good will toward Caleb Williams and his "people" involved in this signing process. He doesn't have an agent, per se.

The Bears need to continue this path and simply wait until the second pick signs so Williams can be 100% certain he is getting his just reward for being No. 1 overall.

The player they should sign next is Rome Odunze.

Odunze was the ninth pick and shouldn't be impacted much by the fact the eighth pick is unsigned and the 10th pick is unsigned, because both were quarterbacks: Michael Penix Jr. and J.J. McCarthy. As of Wednesday, there were 12 unsigned first-round picks, including four quarterbacks. Wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers signed already and were drafted ahead of Odunze. There's no reason the third wide receiver selected should still be unsigned.

4. Trade RB Khalil Herbert

This isn't to suggest they are pondering it but this creeps up every now and then. Pro Football Network as recently as post-draft suggested Dallas should trade for Herbert. Other trade suggestion stories pop up with Herbert's name from time to time. These are unsourced stories and are only speculation.

This move would be a tremendous mistake by the Bears at this point.

The reason for such a suggestion is Herbert is considered expendable by some because he is in the final year of a contract, plays a position where there always seems to be a surplus of low-cost talent and the Bears have two other backs who could be starters.

Last year should have proven to Poles he needs three backs capable of starting more than he needs another mid-round draft pick.

Herbert had nine starts, D'Onta Foreman eight and Roschon Johnson would have had more than 81 carries as the third back except Justin Fields supplied their second-most carries and took away rushing attempts from other players.

KEENAN ALLEN AGENT SWITCH SPURS CONTRACT EXTENSION HOPES

ROME ODUNZE'S COMMITMENT SURPRISES EVEN BEARS COACHES

CALEB WILLIAMS AND BEARS PREPARED TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP

BEARS FIND DIFFERENT CALEB WILLIAMS THAN ORIGINALLY ADVERTISED

The Bears haven't had a running back start every game since Jordan Howard did it in 2017. Last year they thought they had sufficient back totals when they had three backs and in Week 5 at Washington they had to use fullback Khari Blasingame to carry the ball and ice the game because every other back was injured.

Signing D'Andre Swift replaced Foreman with a speed threat and pass catcher out of the backfield, but in four seasons Swift has never played every game and until last year he had never missed less than three games in a season.

Trade away Herbert and the Bears are setting themselves up to get burned for no reason.

3. Let Odunze Return Punts

This isn't a Poles decision, it's up to coach Matt Eberflus and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower. In the words of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, it should be a non-starter.

There's a player who just signed with the Jets who should indicate to the Bears how dumb this idea is. That's Tarik Cohen.

One second in 2019 Cohen is making a fair catch and the next second he has a horrible knee injury and his career went down the drain. Then he injured it again doing rehab.

Sure, Odunze risks injury on every play like any player, but at least let him risk it doing what they drafted him to do and that's be a wide receiver.

“Yeah, absolutely, absolutely," Odunze said Wednesday when asked about returning punts. "You know, I had my fair share of punt returns in college. I practiced it every day. I didn't get a ton of reps in actual games. Would've loved to get more of those, but I think it's just another opportunity for me to shine and for me to add value to the team. I feel like I do it at a high level."

Spoken like a true rookie.

Odunze fielded three punts in games in college, which should communicate to the Bears how they need to treat this thought. Odunze isn't even among the fastest three receivers the Bears have, so using him to even field punts in practice or games is of questionable value anyway.

Top 10 picks are not chosen to field punts. That's what Day 3 guys and undrafted free agents do so they can justify being on the team.

Gale Sayers did it, sure. That was almost 60 years ago. Even then, he had more punt returns his rookie year than the rest of his career combined. Devin Hester did it. But he was ridiculous. And he really didn't help a lot as a receiver.

It's too hazardous a job to risk a player drafted so early.

The only first-round picks to return punts last year were Jabrill Peppers for the Giants and Kadarius Toney for the Chiefs. They didn't do it regularly. Peppers was a seventh-year player on his third team who didn't live up to first-round status as a safety with only six career interceptions. He only averaged 8.3 yard a return. Toney is on his second team and has returned only 17 for his three-year career. He also has averaged only 7.0 yards a return.

Oh, the Falcons actually put Bijan Robinson back for one return last year. As the team the Bears were playing when Cohen got hurt, they should realize how stupid this is.

Every single regular NFC punt returner last year was a Day 3 draft pick or undrafted free agent and there's a reason for this.

2. Extend Keenan Allen's Contract Now

This is a mistake unless the terms are too good for the Bears to resist. In this wide receiver market, they won't be.

Allen is a 32-year-old receiver they spent only a fourth-round pick to obtain. He hasn't played in cold weather, is with a new team for the first time and the Bears have another wide receiver who is more valuable and accounts for much less against the salary cap this year. That would be DJ Moore, who counts only $16.05 million against the Bears cap.

Is this really what you want to do? Extend a receiver who already makes $7 million more than your best receiver when your best receiver is due an extension by the end of 2025? Moore is 5 years younger and part of the future for the Bears. It's possible a move like this could create bad feelings and, at best, it sets up Moore for an even greater pay increase after 2025. He'll get it anyway, so why give one to the other veteran receiver now?

If Allen doesn't want to play out the year or prove he has enough left to make an impact on this team for a few more years, then he walks. After all, they drafted Odunze to be their No. 2, if not the No. 1, and he definitely wasn't drafted ninth overall to return punts.

1. Make Teven Jenkins Wait for a Contract Extension

Jenkins should be the first Bears player to get a contract extension.

Even if you don't like the fact he has been able to start only 24 of a possible 51 games in three years due to injuries, when he played he was extremely effective.

Beyond that, the guard position is a complete mess right now for the Bears. Starter Nate Davis has been injured and when healthy he wasn't blocking effectively. They're using the other guard, Ryan Bates, as a competitor for starting center. Beyond those three players, there is a tremendous drop off in quality.

After this season, it would seem they'll need to find another starting right guard unless something changes drastically, so they better make sure they don't need two guards.

It's better to have Jenkins playing and happy to be part of the Bears future. If you only have one dependable guard protecting your franchise quarterback, it might be good to pay him.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven


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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com 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 Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.