Cole Kmet

Assessing possible Bears contract extension numbers before training camp

Spotrac started releasing projected new deals for several Bears who are set to become free agents in 2024

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When Ryan Poles took over as Bears GM in January 2022 he wasted no time tearing down the roster. Things began with the Khalil Mack trade, various cuts and culminated in the Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith trades. By the end of the team’s first season under Poles, the Bears had nearly stripped the roster down to the studs, fell to the basement of the NFL and acquired the No. 1 pick.

All of that put the team in a position to begin building things back up again. The blockbuster DJ Moore trade was the first real step towards contention in 2023, but big free agent signings like Tremaine Edmunds, Nate Davis and TJ Edwards continued Poles’ quest to assemble a real foundation for the Bears moving forward.

The next step is identifying which current Bears have earned a spot on the team as they work towards postseason contention, and rewarding them with new contracts. Several players are set to become free agents after this season, including Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson, Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, Trevis Gipson and Cairo Santos. The Bears aren’t going to re-sign everyone though. Some fan favorites may end up on other teams in 2024.

Spotrac released contract projections for many players who are set to hit the market with their NFL Market Value Tool. We’re going to use those numbers as a springboard to discuss their potential future with the team.

DARNELL MOONEY - FOUR YEARS, $59.77 MILLION, $14.9 AAV

The Bears love Darnell Mooney. When Poles and Matt Eberflus first began evaluating their personnel, Mooney was one of the first players singled out as a potential cornerstone for the franchise. They love his attitude, his work ethic and his growing relationship with Justin Fields. But Mooney needs to produce in year two operating in Luke Getsy’s offense. Things didn’t work out when the Bears tabbed Mooney to be the No. 1 wideout last year, so the question is can he make a bigger impactー like he did in 2020 and 2021ー with DJ Moore demanding more attention from the defense? The other big question: how does Mooney look coming off of last year’s ankle injury? If the Bears get positive answers to both of those questions, they’d happily pay him to ensure Fields has two legit pass catching options for years to come. At those numbers, Mooney would be the 18th-highest paid WR in terms of total money, and 23rd based on average annual value. But if they get a less than encouraging answer to either of those questions, the Bears may let Mooney walk for that kind of money.

COLE KMET - FOUR YEARS, $45.59 MILLION, $11.4 AAV

Kmet is the most likely Bears player to receive an extension from Poles, and it could come before the start of the regular season, if not before the start of training camp. Tight end is an incredibly important position in Getsy’s offense and Kmet showed the aptitude to pick up what was asked of him and develop the requisite skills to succeed over the course of the 2022 season. He grew significantly as a run blocker and pass protector. He finally got off the TD schneid and exploded for five scores in three games from Week 8 to Week 10. Kmet still has plenty of room to grow into an even more effective tight end, too, so his mix of solid floor and enticing ceiling is exactly what the Bears would want as they work towards Super Bowl contention. The value that Spotrac projects would make Kmet the eighth-highest paid TE in total money and 10th-highest in AAV. That’s a bargain considering there aren’t too many bonafide productive TEs in the league.

JAYLON JOHNSON - THREE YEARS, $23.3 MILLION, $7.8 MILLION AAV

When Jaylon Johnson didn’t show up for the first two weeks of Bears OTAs speculation brewed that Johnson was gearing up to hold out for a new contract. Turns out that was poppycock as Johnson came for the final week of the voluntary program and explained he was spending time with his daughter and doing charity work for his foundation back in California. However if Johnson receives an offer from the Bears like Spotrac projects, he will likely be very, very upset. Johnson sees himself as a top corner and those numbers would place him 28th among corners in total contract value and 30th in AAV. Johnson has good reason to believe he’s a top flight corner. He’s sticky in coverage and the Bears used him to shadow an opponent’s No. 1 receiver at times last year. There were some weeks where Johnson was so good that opposing quarterbacks never targeted him. That’s no small feat. But the Bears and the rest of the NFL want CBs to take the ball away, and that’s where Johnson is lacking. Over three seasons, Johnson has only notched one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. If he wants the big bucks from the Bears, he’ll have to improve in that area this year.

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