Is it a hot take to say the Chicago Bears need receiving help?
It shouldn’t be. This became obvious during week five’s game at Minnesota. Justin Fields’s second half play was probably his best so far this year, but his hard work was stonewalled by a costly last-minute mistake by Ihmir Smith-Marsette, among other receiving mishaps.
Luckily for Bears GM Ryan Poles, plenty of options are available if he wishes to seek receiving reinforcements.
A previous WCG article looked at where the WR free agent pool stands, so this article will mainly focus on trade targets the Bears might/should pursue, broken into various tiers based upon the receivers' current conditions and what they would bring to Chicago.
The Long Shots
These two players are not guaranteed to be moved, as they are young and already really good. Additionally, it will take just about a king’s ransom to bring either to Chicago. But if Poles wants to jump-start his search for a WR1 (if it’s not Darnell Mooney), this pair is worth a discussion.
With Matt Ruhle’s recent firing, sources say the Carolina Panthers could be heading into a fire sale of anything and anyone that will acquire draft capital, and now that Christian McCaffery has been shipped to San Francisco, D.J. Moore might be the most valuable trade chip Carolina holds.
Moore has put up back-to-back-to-back 1000-yard seasons over the past three years despite Carolina’s quarterback carousel (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Allen).
The Maryland alum thrives no matter who is under center, and at 25-year-olds Moore should continue to succeed for years to come. But he might also be young enough that the Panthers decide to keep him around with the idea that he will still be productive when the team is competitive again.
Also, Moore is by no means cheap. A new three-year contract kicks in next year, which will carry a cap hit of $25,040,000 in 2023 and then $20,925,000 in ‘24 and ‘25. Poles has clearly prioritized creating cap space during his short time as Bears’ GM, so it remains to be seen if he will want to bring in such a big contract less than a year into his tenure, especially for how much draft capital would be sacrificed to do so.
McLaurin’s name has mostly been absent on the trade block, but with Washington’s situation rapidly deteriorating (3-4 record, coach on the hot seat, no clear long-term solution at quarterback), now might be the time to move the 27-year-old.
“Scary Terry” and Moore share a lot of similarities, so much of what was previously said about Moore applies to McLaurin; standout stats despite meh QB play (two straight 1000-yard seasons while catching from the likes of Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke, Alex Smith, and Dwayne Haskins) and he will have a cap hit of over $20 million within the next few seasons.
McLaurin just entered that prime age range at 27, but those extra few years on someone like Moore could sway Poles away from McLaurin if the first-year GM does not think McLaurin fits his timeline. Then again, his slightly older age may convince the Commanders it’s time to move him since it is doubtful he will still be in his prime post-rebuild should Washington go that route.
Between his slightly older age and the fact that Washington has shown no signs of rebuilding (yet), it is likely McLaurin stays in a Commander’s uniform. But with Washington’s current trajectory looking less than great, it is likely GMs around the league are monitoring the situation.
The More Realistic Targets
While the two names above would likely solve the Bears’ WR1 problem for the next couple of seasons, it would be a bit shocking if Poles sheds tons of draft capital to acquire either when he seems set on building this team through the draft (at least for now).
So how about trade targets who are on the cheaper side of things but would still provide value and, hopefully, stability to the Bears’ corps?
Agholor was incredibly consistent from 2017-2020, putting up 700+ yards in three of those four seasons with a career-best 896 yards in 2020. However, his two-year tenure with New England has not panned out as expected (698 yards through 20 games), meaning New England most likely is okay with moving him.
Now, Agholor does hit free agency after this season, and at 29 years old it feels unlikely Poles would bring him back to stick around long-term. But between that and his lack of his usual production with the Patriots, he would probably be about as cheap as they come. For a low round pick, Agholor might be worth bringing in just to give Fields someone with experience and pedigree (he nabbed a Super Bowl ring while with the Eagles) to throw to for the rest of the year compared to the mostly unknowns he is currently targeting.
Agholor’s New England teammate, Kendrick Bourne, provides another cheap alternative to some of the bigger fish in the trade market.
Bourne has had a really nice past two seasons, putting up 667 yards with San Francisco in 2020 and then 800 with the Patriots last year. He is a little younger than Agholor at 27 years old, so his best years might still be on the horizon.
Granted, Bourne is putting up the lowest yards-per-game number of his career since 2019 this year (26.0), but he has clearly shown he can be a productive receiver, and his trade value cannot be too high. Add in he is under contract until 2024 at a relatively low cap hit ($6,416,666 this year and $6,916,667 next season), and Bourne could prove to be a nice addition to the roster to give Fields a target with some proven history.
The Thinking-About-the-Future Players
One approach Poles could take with the trade market is trading with the future in mind rather than going for immediate impact players. An example is Denzel Mims. There is already an article written on Mims as a possible trade target, but the basic gist is that while Mims has failed to live up to his potential thus far, the potential is clearly there and the Bears could bring him in for cheap with the hope of unlocking his skills down the road.
There are also some other youngsters the Bears could target who have produced to a degree but still might be underperforming a little and find themselves on the trade market.
Either way, going after a young player might not fix problems this year but could set them up nicely down the road.
Terrace Marshall Jr.
Marshall, 22 years old, is competing in his second NFL season. His stats are unremarkable up to this point; in 2021, he had 17 receptions for 138 yards, and this season he is at six receptions for 61 yards. He has been targeted just 38 times in his short career, low for a second-round pick who put up decent numbers in college.
Coming from LSU, a WR-machine as of late (Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase), Marshall put up 671 yards and 13 touchdowns sophomore year before finishing his career with a 731-yard, 10-touchdown junior year. Draft experts praised his athleticism/size combination, reliability, and 50/50 catch ability. However, his focus and intensity were questioned.
It is doubtful Marshall ever blossoms into a WR1, but becoming a solid second or third option is 100% in the cards, assuming he puts the pieces together. If Poles could nab him for a late-round pick, Marshall is worth bringing in for what he can turn into down the line.
Toney used a monster senior season at Florida to shoot up draft boards in last year’s draft. He was eventually picked up by the Giants with the 20th overall pick, and while he dealt with injuries his rookie campaign, but still put up a respectable 420 yards in 10 appearances. The injury bug has reared its ugly head once again this year, limiting Toney to just two games and zero reception yards.
While Toney’s injury struggles do cloud his future, it is not often you see a top draft prospect like him appear in trade rumors so early in his career. Coming out of Florida, Toney was praised for his cutting ability in routes and acceleration. If the rumors are true and New York GM Joe Schoen is open to moving the wideout, the Bears could have a chance to snag a youngster who has plenty of potential left to unlock.
It is surprising to see Jeudy’s name pop up in trade chatter. The Alabama product was a hot commodity in the 2020 draft, eventually falling to the Broncos at 15th overall. After back-to-back monster seasons to end his collegiate career, many thought Jeudy a sure bet to pan out in the NFL.
He looked on track after a rookie season where he caught for 856 yards (just ignore his abysmal 46% catch rate). Jeudy’s sophomore year took a hit due to injuries, but he still totaled 467 yards in 10 games. The hype train then went into full effect this past offseason, with Russell Wilson’s arrival in town setting the stage for a Jeudy breakout.
Jeudy has been by no means bad this year (he is on pace for a career-high 936 yards), but he has not turned into the bona fide WR1 many thought he would. Add in that Denver’s offense has been as stagnant as possible this year, and a shakeup of sorts might be in the works.
Acquiring Jeudy will likely take more than most other players; at just 23 years old, there is plenty of time for Jeudy to harness that elite potential, and even if he does not, he still puts up decent numbers. But, like Toney, it is rare to see such a young player with years left to get better become available. Considering Jeudy turning into a WR1 is still in the cards, and he fits the Bears’ current timeline, Poles should at least be making some calls to Denver.
Moore presents a similar situation to Jeudy and Toney: Highly touted coming out of college (1193 yards his senior season at Ole Miss; praised for his athleticism, toughness, route running), halfway decent rookie year (538 yards in 11 for the ‘21 Jets), and now finds himself in trade rumors.
Moore’s ceiling likely is not as high as Toney's or Jeudy’s, but he was taken in the second round for a reason. While his numbers have dipped a bit thus far this year (33.8 yards per game this season compared to 48.9 last year), his whole situation feels a bit more like the Jets just not having long-term plans for him. Poles goes and gets him for a mid-to-late round pick, and the Bears should have themselves a competent WR2 or WR3 for the next handful of seasons.
The Bounce-Back Candidates
The final two targets are guys (both on the Giants, incidentally) that are in serious need of a bounceback. There is no specific reason why it might come with a trade to the Bears, but maybe a change of scenery is all they need.
A fifth-round pick in 2019, Slayton showed promise in his first two seasons. Year one, he compiled 740 yards in 14 games while reeling in eight touchdowns. His TD number took a big dip sophomore year, dropping to three, but he played a full 16 games while putting up a career-best 751 yards.
In the last two years, Slayton’s numbers have plummeted. In 2021, he caught for just 339 yards at a career-worst 26.1 yards per game. This year looks like more of the same, as Slayton sits at 27.7 yards/game and only 166 yards through six games played.
With this year being the last in his rookie contract, the chances Slayton remains with the Giants, who are having their best season in years without Slayton producing, past this season are slim to none. They would probably be happy to get any kind of compensation for him rather than just letting him walk.
Poles could ship a late-round pick for Slayton, give him a half-season tryout, and then re-sign him over the summer if the stint looks good. If Slayton can put up seasons like his rookie and sophomore campaign, or even improve upon them, the 25-year-old can be a mainstay in the Bears’ offense for the foreseeable future.
“What happened to Kenny Golladay?” has been asked frequently within NFL circles over the past two years. The former Lion put up monster years for Detroit in 2018 and 2019, with his ‘19 campaign (1190 yards and 11 touchdowns) nabbing him a Pro Bowl appearance.
After 2020, where he only played five games due to injury, Golladay signed a massive four-year, $72 million contract with the Giants. That contract has awarded the Giants 543 yards and zero touchdowns.
Much like Slayton, the Giants have been playing winning ball without the Golladay they paid for. Moving forward, New York might actively look to move Golladay to shed his contract and have money for other, more pressing needs. This puts the Bears in a really nice position. They have the cap space to absorb Golladay’s contract as well as the need for a proven commodity for Fields to target. New York may even throw in a sweetener to guarantee Golladay is moved, or at least trade him for far less than what he might actually be worth talent-wise.
Why Golladay went from arguably a top-10 WR to a guy barely averaging over a target per game could lead to a variety of answers (maybe that 2020 injury had a greater impact than previously thought), but a change of scenery might be all it takes to revive the Golladay of old (or at least something close to that). It is a big gamble to bring in a former division rival who is being massively overpaid, but the chance of recapturing what Golladay was in Detroit is too tantalizing to pass.
Plus, he is a Chicago native. C’mon now.