By: Ryan Taylor
Allen Robinson is officially out of the building, Chicago.
The Bears’ number one option for the last four years was picked up by the defending Super Bowl champions, Los Angeles Rams, to link up with Matthew Stafford.
Nevertheless, the Bears are left with a lot of puzzle pieces to move around. They have plenty of needs to fill, wide receiver being one of them. The offensive line, linebacker, cornerback and safety make up some of the others.
General manager Ryan Poles and duly accredited assistant general manager, Ian Cunningham, got their feet wet in free agency. They signed Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle at the wide receiver slots and recently signed offensive linemen Dakota Dozier and Ryan Bates – the latter to an offer sheet that the Buffalo Bills can match within five days.
The offensive line will be priority one for Poles & Co. As a former offensive lineman, Poles has a hankering for fixing the Bears’ bottom-tier offensive line that gave up the most sacks in the NFL last season. He even commented on the Bears’ line last season surrounding his dissatisfaction with the group.
While Bears fans await Poles’s plan of attack for confronting the offensive line – whether it be by investing in free agency or expending this draft’s picks on them, one idea comes to mind.
The Bears need a definitive, number one offensive option for next season.
It’s unclear whether or not Darnell Mooney is ready to jump into that spot. Yes, he caught for 1,000 yards last season, but he’s spent his first two years lined up with Allen Robinson, who attracts the bulk of defensive attention from their opponents.
Try this one on for size. Should the Bears go after Julio Jones?
Yes, Jones comes with limitations. He was just released by the Tennessee Titans for good reason, bringing them $13.5 million in dead cap over the next two years.
Jones is on the wrong side of 30 years old, hasn’t played a full season since 2018 and played in just 19 games over the past two seasons with a lingering hamstring injury. Last season he recorded career lows with 31 catches for 434 yards and just one touchdown.
Yet, the attractiveness behind Jones for the Bears is his experience. He’s widely known as one of the best receivers to ever do it. Wouldn’t it be appealing to put Justin Fields in Jones’s football 101 class?
The Bears are surrounded by mid-level talent receivers who haven’t broken the 1,000-yard mark in one season, except for the second-year Mooney. No, that statistic doesn’t mean everything, but it helps show the lack of success and experience Bears’ receivers have.
Another reason the Bears should make this move happen is cap space. According to Spotrac, the Bears have the most cap space currently in the NFL, sitting at $23 million.
Why not take a chance on letting Jones have some of it?
The Bears could likely snag Jones for around $10 million per year. As aforementioned, Jones’s career is on a decline, riddled with injury and low market value.
This part of the plan depends on where Poles wants to allocate the leftover money. Does he want to put it all into the offensive line? That would be an admirable, safe route to go down. Yet, the Bears are projected to have over $120 million in cap space in the next offseason. There’s no risk in putting a little money into a big-name receiver to help teach a young team the Bears are building.
As for competition, there will likely be some that hear the name “Julio Jones” and come knocking on his doorstep. Remember, the Titans are likely to release him after June 1 to even out the dead cap issues Jones comes with. That means, his free agency might take a while to straighten out.
Depending on his interest around the league, the Bears might be able to get Jones for cheap. Here’s a table of the teams that are likely to have interest in Jones while permitting the cap space to make the move happen, compared to the Bears.
|Team||Cap Space (according to Spotrac)||NFL Rank in cap space|
|Chicago Bears||$23 million||1|
|New Orleans Saints||$18 million||4|
|Kansas City Chiefs||$17 million||6|
|Green Bay Packers||$14 million||9|
|Denver Broncos||$11 million||12|
The wide receiver market thinned out quickly in free agency with the signings of Robinson, Christian Kirk, Juju Smith-Schuster and re-signings of Mike Williams and Chris Godwin.
A couple of teams stand out to me in who will likely want to pick up Jones. To me, it’s the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
The New Orleans Saints have a weird, disassembled relationship with Michael Thomas. His name has been under the radar for a while. And while the Saints do have other needs to attend to like quarterback and offensive line, especially after losing Terron Armstead, they need receivers.
The Green Bay Packers lost Davante Adams and have plenty of leftover cap room to give someone else. They’re stuck with Allen Lazard, assuming that Marquez Valdes-Scantling moves on as Equanimeous St. Brown did. They have hardly any receivers in their wheelhouse, and I’ll bet Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to deal with a rookie.
Like the Packers, the Chiefs just lost their star receiver, Tyreek Hill, on the NFL’s largest deal to a wide receiver from the Miami Dolphins. Will they want in on the Jones stakes? Even after signing Smith-Schuster? They are likely a threat in Jones’s market too.
In my eyes, the Bears have nothing to lose. They’re no longer a fringe playoff team. They are a team in rebuilding. So, while the rebuild continues under the well-advised supervision of Poles, what’s wrong with having a little fun?
Jones would bring in a lot of leadership and wisdom to the young offense and its first-year coordinator, Luke Getsy. If he can stay healthy, he might even add a fun spark to the offense that Fields can grow from.