The Bears announced on Tuesday that they’re bringing back three players next season: Sam Mustipher, Jesper Horsted and Lachavious “Pig” Simmons. All three players are exclusive rights free agents, so they can’t negotiate with other teams since the Bears offered them at least a minimum qualifying offer.
Mustipher is the most notable of the three players coming back, as he started all 17 games for the Bears at center. This doesn’t mean Mustipher is locked in to starting at center again next season however. Ryan Poles has hinted changes will be coming to the team’s offensive line, we just don’t know the extent of those changes. In either case, Mustipher is an affordable and reliable player in the trenches.
The Bears shored up their tight end group by retaining Horsted. Before tendering Horsted, Cole Kmet was the only tight end under contract for next season. Horsted has also shown chemistry with Justin Fields when he’s gotten the chance to play. Last season, Horsted only played six offensive snaps, but he made the absolute most of them by catching two passes for 21 yards. Each of those catches went for touchdowns, too. Horsted primarily played on special teams in 2021.
Simmons played in two games, starting one, at right tackle last season. The Bears turned to him with Germain Ifedi, Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins and Elijah Wilkinson all unavailable for their Week 7 matchup against the Buccaneers. But Simmons struggled against the Bucs’ fearsome pass rush early, so the Bears swapped him out for Alex Bars. The Bears drafted Simmons in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.
An exclusive rights free agent is defined by the NFL as “any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract.” The Bears now have 50 players under contract for next season, according to Spotrac.