In many ways, this 2023 offseason is shaping up to be one that could upend the Chicago Bears franchise. Not only do they have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, but they are expected to have more than $100 million in salary cap space to spend.
General manager Ryan Poles will continue his review of this list, and he’ll have no shortage of resources to do so. That will include bringing in a lot of new faces through free agency and the NFL draft. But there are some familiar faces on the list that the Poles should be looking to block for the long term.
There are three players from the 2020 draft class, in particular, who are eligible for a contract extension. And the fact that all three play integral roles on this roster serves them well, as negotiations could begin this offseason. There is also another worthy name ready to go on the open market that he could re-sign.
With that in mind, here are four Bears players who should be in line for a contract extension this offseason:
Mooney has been a key part of the Bears’ offense since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2020, and he’s someone the Poles will be looking to lock up for the foreseeable future. Mooney recently switched agencies and joined Athletes First, suggesting an extension may be imminent. Mooney has been one of Fields’ most reliable targets, and considering Chicago needs to surround Fields with viable weapons, re-signing Mooney is a move that makes a lot of sense. Although Mooney’s 2022 season was interrupted by an ankle injury, he was coming off a 2021 season in which he established himself as the team’s leading wide receiver with 81 passes for 1,055 yards and four touchdowns. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal, Mooney is expected to be a major factor in the passing game.
Johnson has been a key contributor to the secondary since his rookie season, where he quickly established himself as a rising cornerback. Johnson has served as the Bears CB1 for the past two seasons, where teams have tried to avoid pitching his way. But Johnson has also held his own against some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, including Davante Adams and AJ Brown. While Johnson has only one interception in three seasons, he has proven to be impressive (when he’s healthy). Given that Chicago is short at cornerback, and with Johnson’s production, signing him to an extension seems inevitable. Johnson said last season that he is waiting to sign an extension and to continue “being a Bear throughout my career”.
It only took three seasons, but we finally got to see the kind of impact Kmet can have on this Bears offense. Kmet had a breakout year, in which he led the Bears in receptions (50), passing yards (544) and touchdowns (7), also a career high. The fact that Kmet had that kind of production in the worst passing offense in the league says a lot about the addition of Luke Getsy, and how Kmet can be used in the future. Kmet arguably became Fields’ most reliable weapon, where he was able to rack up yards when the team needed them. Listening to the Poles talk about Kmet’s performance in 2022, it seems a given that he will work to keep the former second-round pick in Chicago for the long haul. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, look to Kmet to once again appear in the passing game.