The Bears have signed running back Tarik Cohen to a three-year, $17.25 contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo was the first to report on Saturday that the team had been undergoing discussions with Cohen reading an extension.
Cohen, 25, was slated to hit free agency after the 2020 season, as his four-year rookie contract was in its last year. The 2018 first-team All-Pro has served as the team’s primary punt returner since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2017, as well as a trusted receiving option out of the backfield.
With this contract extension, Cohen will find himself as the 15th-highest paid running back in the NFL once the deal comes into effect after this season. The deal will run through 2023.
Though much of the attention has gone towards Allen Robinson’s quest to receive a contract extension, it appears the Bears were able to come to terms with Cohen and his camp quicker. While the deal gives the team another decent-sized contract on a cash-strapped roster, Cohen’s extension likely will not affect Chicago’s ability to get an extension done with Robinson.
Cohen’s extension marks somewhat of an unusual decision when analyzing general manager Ryan Pace’s pattern at the running back position. He has relied heavily on production from players on cheap, rookie contracts and has generally refused to spend big money at the position. He has seen most of his team’s production at the position come from Jordan Howard, David Montgomery and Cohen—all on rookie deals—and traded Howard away before his contract expired. Pace also chose not to re-sign Matt Forte, who in 2012 was the last Bears running back to receive a multiple-year contract extension before Cohen’s deal.
All told, though, the deal isn’t incredibly expensive by running back standards. When compared to backs with similar roles for their respective teams, the annual salary is slightly cheaper than that of Austin Ekeler, while only partially more expensive than the likes of Duke Johnson Jr., Giovanni Bernard and James White.
Prior to the 2020 season, Cohen had rushed for 1,027 yards and five touchdowns on 250 carries in his three years with the team. The bulk of his production has come as a pass-catcher, having caught 203 passes for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns in that time frame. He has also had 985 punt return yards and a touchdown as a special-teams standout. He rushed for 41 yards on seven carries in last Sunday’s win against the Lions.