Name: Barkevious Mingo
Position: Outside Linebacker
Time with Bears: 1st season
“And there’s a FAKE [punt], and carrying the ball is Barkevious Mingo, the linebacker, and he gets a first down!”
Coming out of the 2019 season, the Bears knew they had to go all-out for 2020. Khalil Mack’s contract was about to make things tough in free agency, they were again about to miss out on a first round pick, and the defense which had carried them all throughout 2018 was banged up and getting old. If they really wanted to contend for a Super Bowl before a possible rebuild, they needed big talent on short deals.
In comes Robert Quinn. Jimmy Graham. Tashaun Gipson. Germain Ifedi.
Why not bring in NFL journeyman Barkevious Mingo, and see if we can unlock the talent so many other teams have missed?
Back in 2009, an LSU team headed by coach Les Miles was a couple years removed from their national championship victory, and still the team to beat in the SEC despite a rising Alabama squad. LSU, for their part, was an absolute powerhouse in the recruiting game, and that 2009 class boasted a ton of future NFL talent. Rueben Randle, Russell Shepard, Craig Loston, Michael Ford, Sam Montgomery.
Akiem Hicks, though he was ruled ineligible due to recruiting violations and left the program.
Down the list, but not very far down, is Barkevious Mingo, 4-star outside linebacker from Louisiana. The Tigers ran a 4-3 system, and played Mingo at defensive end, often having him fly off the edge but occasionally having him drop inside as well. After an initial redshirt season, Mingo earned playing time in 2010 as a rotational piece, logging 35 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. His playing time increased significantly in 2011, and he upped his tackles to 46 total, including an impressive 15 tackles for loss, 7th most in the SEC.
In his red-shirt Junior season, Mingo finally got the starting nod, and he started eating offensive tackles alive. He posted 38 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and was named second team All-SEC. NFL scouts were blown away with his prowess off the edge, and he drew NFL comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. With the 6th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns jumped on their opportunity to get a stud edge rusher and selected Mingo.
After suffering an injured lung in the preseason, Mingo started his NFL journey in week 2 of 2013 with a 2 tackle, 1 sack performance against the Baltimore Ravens. In December of that year against the Chicago Bears, he logged 3 solo tackles in a 31-38 loss. Overall in his rookie season, he tackled 42 ball carriers and sacked 5 quarterbacks. He matched that 42 tackle total in 2014, but struggled to blow up the pocket as he had done so well at LSU, only getting 2 sacks the entire year. His playing time decreased in his third season, allowing him to only notch 24 total tackles, without a single sack though grabbing the only interception of his career. The Browns were losing interest in Mingo fast, and after drafting him 6th overall he was entering “bust” territory.
The Brown overhauled their staff after another losing season in 2015, their 8th in a row. They put most players up for market to acquire draft capital and build a team which could contend in a division with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The New England Patriots, hoping to squeeze some one more ring out of Tom Brady by pairing him with defensive talent, called Cleveland looking to trade. As Mingo was on the last year of his 4-year rookie deal and was essentially a rental, the Browns received a 5th round draft pick in return for a former top-10 pick. Mingo never caught his footing in New England, struggling along a season for only 11 tackles on a Patriots team which won Super Bowl LI thanks to a masterful defensive unit which slotted Mingo in the back of the line. Mingo entered his first free agency that offseason without a resumé to earn him the second contract you would expect from a top-10 pick.
Mingo signed with the Indianapolis Colts to a one-year contract in 2017, hoping to get involved with their stellar defensive unit and work his way to a longer deal. He rotated into Chuck Pagano’s defense nicely, and posted career highs at multiple stat lines. Late in the season against the Broncos, he logged 4 tackles and a sack, then the next week against the Ravens upped that to 8 tackles (all solo) and another sack. Mingo finished the year with the Colts with a career high 47 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles and showed he still could be the player the Browns thought he was.
The Colts fired coach Pagano following a third consecutive season without a winning record, and Mingo was one of many pieces to be shown the door as they hoped to cut costs with Andrew Luck’s immense contract. Mingo finally got his payday in the 2018 free agency with a 2-year deal worth up to $10.1 million in Seattle, and he got another chance at a starting role with the Seahawks. Against the Chicago Bears in 2018, he logged 4 total tackles in a 17-24 loss. He got his only sack of the year the next week against the Dallas Cowboys, although finished the season with another career high in tackles with 48 total. Before the 2019 season, the Houston Texans made Jadeveon Clowney available for trade, and Mingo was packaged along with Jacob Martin and a 3rd round pick to Houston in exchange.
Mingo struggled to get into Houston’s defensive rotation, logging only 6 total tackles in 16 games played for the Texans. Staring down the barrel of 30 years old without a season of more than 50 tackles in his career, “Keke” was looking for a defense that could use him.
Mingo signed with the Bears on a one-year, $1.187 million deal to contribute mostly on special teams. The signing reunited Mingo with his former coach Pagano, now the defensive coordinator for the Bears. Mingo has played a role as backup edge rusher to both Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, with 35 total tackles through 16 appearances. He’s been a solid backup at a position where the Bears boast two expensive playmakers. His 2.5 sacks in the regular season is the most he’s had since his rookie season, and for the price he’s been well worth it with his production. Though he still has never lived up to his draft status, Mingo has played a role for the playoff-bound Bears as they seek to prove the doubters wrong in search of a deep postseason run.
Once the final game of this season is played, Mingo will be looking for another contract, likely elsewhere. NFL free agency is always about greener pastures, and he’s likely going to be searching for another multi-year deal where he can attempt to settle for the remainder of his career. With the Bears likely moving on from multiple players this offseason, re-signing Mingo seems unlikely. It’s possible GM Ryan Pace could be either fired or moved out of his current role after failing to bring a franchise quarterback to a team which so desperately needs one, and a new GM would almost certainly mean a new home for Mingo.
In their Wild Card matchup, the Bears were the unfortunate recipients of a matchup in the Superdome with the New Orleans Saints. In his first career matchup against the Saints earlier this season, Mingo logged 6 solo tackles, though no stats elsewhere. The Bears will be needing all hands to contribute in multiple ways, with linebacker Roquan Smith likely out and cornerback Buster Skrine confirmed to miss the contest. The Bears may get help elsewhere, but Mingo might not be the name you hear called very often on Sunday.
Playoff Week 1 prediction:
4 total tackles, 3 solo