Chase Claypool

How Chase Claypool is showing Bears new, improved receiver this offseason

The Bears have seen a positive, confident Chase Claypool this offseason

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chase Claypool arrived last November to much fanfare. The belief was that the talented third-year receiver could immediately help elevate quarterback Justin Fields to superstardom.

But trades in the NFL don't work like the NBA or MLB. Acquiring a wide receiver in Week 9 is much different than adding a hard-throwing reliever or a three-and-D wing. NFL offenses are intricate, and developing a real rapport with a new quarterback takes countless hours.

Throw in injuries to both Claypool and Fields and the first eight games on the wide receiver's Bears tenure amount to an incomplete.

With a full offseason to work with Fields off campus and study the offense, Claypool arrived at Halas Hall for the offseason program with renewed positivity and focus.

"I think comfortability within the building, whether that’s being around the head coach, being around us on the offensive staff, his teammates," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Wednesday when asked where he sees a difference in Claypool. "And then, most importantly, Justin. I think that relationship is always the most important — the quarterback/receiver relationship. I think all that’s improving. As far as his knowledge of what’s going on around him, that’s improving. Because we demand a lot of that position, as we’ve talked about here plenty of times. That’s a big part of what we do with that role. It’s been good to see him be able to take a step there.

"To say where he is now, obviously, he’s definitely in a much better place. That’s what’s most important. Like coach Flus and those guys have said, I think that his positivity, his optimism coming into this thing, and his attack and his approach to how he’s trying to learn this thing is really cool to see."

Claypool participated in the first week of OTAs but has dealt with a soft-tissue issue for the past two weeks. The Bears are being cautious with all players during the voluntary offseason program.

While Claypool hasn't been able to get a lot of time on turf, he has been exhausting all other avenues to improve heading into a contract season with the Bears.

"I’m excited where he is," wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. "He’s more into what we’re doing offensively. He asks a lot of good questions. He’s here extra too — when he doesn’t have to be here, he’s here doing a lot of extra things, trying to get better, watching tape on his own, that kinda thing.

"He’s a big target, as we know. People forget that he’s 230 pounds but he ran a 4.42. He’s really fast. He was out here and he was getting behind the defense a few times. We’re excited to have him."

The Bears' decision to trade a second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Claypool has been heavily criticized. Not having the No. 32 overall pick cost the Bears a chance to add a top-tier edge rusher in the 2023 NFL Draft. Claypool's lack of production after arriving midseason has many wondering if the Bears erred in paying a heavy price for a talented but inconsistent receiver.

The feelings are different inside Halas Hall, where the belief is that Claypool, with the benefit of this offseason work and a more defined role thanks to the arrival of DJ Moore, will blossom in his first full season in Chicago.

"Chase has improved tremendously from the end of last year to now," Fields said on May 23. "That’s one thing I’m truly proud to say, seeing his work ethic, his attitude change. You can just see he’s taking another step, so definitely excited for that."

Claypool certainly understands how important this season is for his NFL future. The Bears are his best chance at getting the lucrative payday many thought was a no-brainer after his impressive rookie season in Pittsburgh. But Claypool's only way to the bag is a good season in which he is a productive and vital member of an improved passing attack.

But if Claypool flounders again and the Bears let him walk, he'll enter an uncertain stage of his career where he'll likely be looking at a lower-value contract to climb his way back up the ladder.

The Bears and Claypool need each other. That he has arrived this offseason with a freshly-ignited fire should portend well for both sides as they prepare for a critical 2023 season.

But positivity and study hours only mean so much if the production isn't there to match.

Claypool is putting himself in position to succeed on Sundays in the fall. That's all the Bears can ask of him in June. Whether or not this new attitude and attacking drive bears fruit remains to be seen.

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