Darnell Mooney

Darnell Mooney declined 3-year extension before 2023 season: report

It appears Mooney was looking to be on himself in his final season on his rookie deal

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Darnell Mooney opted to bet on himself and his talents in the final year of his rookie contract, according to a recent report from Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.

"There’s a cautionary tale here for Mooney as he turned down an extension offer from the Bears before last season started. As I understand it, Mooney had a three-year deal worth more than $10 million annually on the table," Biggs wrote.

Mooney missed out on a potential three-year deal worth $30 million. That's a tough decline after an abysmal third year in which he finished with 493 yards and two touchdowns. Obviously, Mooney was hoping to bet on the success of his fourth year in the league.

It's not an uncommon move for players to bet on themselves in the final year of their respective contracts in hopes of getting a better number in negotiations. But it's not a chess move that will work for Mooney, who finished with 414 yards and one touchdown last season.

To be fair, Spotrac projects Mooney to earn $10.4 million annually on his next contract. There's no saying for sure what his market value projects, but a deal of that nature would save him after declining a deal in that range one year ago.

So far, Cole Kmet is the only player from the Bears' 2020 NFL draft class to earn an extension with the team. Jaylon Johnson is close, but also one day away from the NFL franchise tag deadline. Mooney will likely not be re-signed.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports the Chiefs and Titans are teams that "could be players" for Mooney's services.

As Fowler and Biggs both mentioned in their reports, the league doesn't fault Mooney much for his poor 2023 stat line. Seeing as the Bears fired Luke Getsy and are on the brink of trading Justin Fields, Mooney doesn't shoulder all the blame for his performance, as the league sees it.

Mooney, 26, earned major expectations after earning over 1,000 yards and four touchdowns during his sophomore campaign in 2021. Unfortunately, Mooney didn't live up to the pressure under the limelight.

He was expected to transform into a No. 1 option during his third year without Allen Robinson's presence but didn't produce. Alleviated pressure from DJ Moore's presence last season was expected to open the floodgates for Mooney, too. But, again, that didn't happen, either.

The Bears drafted him in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft. In 60 games (49 starts) with the Bears over four seasons, Mooney recorded 361 receptions, 2,593 yards and 11 touchdowns.

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