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Chicago Bears 2022 Roster Turnover: Running back by committee?

In this 12-part series we’ll take an in depth look at each position group for the Chicago Bears with an eye towards the 2022 season. We’ll speculate on who stays, who goes, and some potential additions we’d like to see general manager Ryan Poles make.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy comes from a Packers team that saw two running backs get 223 and 221 touches a season ago, and the roots of the offensive scheme lends itself into riding the hot hand. The scheme has also seemed to be able to get quality production from several runners, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the playing time at the position plays out.

We’ve seen the Bears in recent years add backs each offseason and talk about splitting carries, but that never came to fruition. Whether it be Jordan Howard or David Montgomery, Matt Nagy’s offenses have always had a clear cut RB1.

Having a backfield by committee is just a smart way to attack a defense. Your runners stay fresher all game long and you ease the wear and tear on their bodies for the season. The key in any good committee is having backs with varying skill sets, but not too varied so the offense is tipping plays, however the most important job for any running back in 2022 is to understand pass protection.

In this 12-part series I’ll be listing the contract status of all the current Bears players on a position by position basis, while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.

David Montgomery - Signed through 2022 - Even with D-Mo missing 4 games last season he still was 9th in the NFL in rushing attempts and 10th in total touches. He’s a do it all player, and the renewed focus on the offensive line, coupled with the new scheme’s deception concepts should give him more room to operate. Montgomery always plays with a chip on his shoulder, but with him heading into his contract year I’m expecting plenty of angry runs from him in 2022.

Khalil Herbert - Signed through 2024 - Herbert did a heck of a job filling in when Montgomery was injured those 4 games with 78 carries, 344 yards (4.4 ypc), 1 TD, and 9 receptions for 44 yards, but in the following 9 weeks he only averaged 11.6 offensive snaps a game while rushing for 82 yards. Pass protection was a big reason the Bears decided to go back to their RB1 with a featured role, but experience and film study will help Herbert get more playing time in 2022.

Damien Williams - Free agent - Williams is another Ryan Pace Void Year special with three more years of $125,000, so once he’s officially a free agency the Bears are going to get hit with a $375,000 cap hit. Considering Williams was brought in because of his familiarity with the last offense, I can’t imagine he’d return.

Ryan Nall - Restricted free agent - Nall’s free agency tender won’t be very much, so it would not surprise me to see Nall return to compete for a bottom of the depth chart/special teams spot.

Tarik Cohen - Signed through 2023 - With Cohen missing the entire 2021 season I think a lot of Bears’ fans forgot just how explosive a player he is. There were rumors of a set back in his rehab from the injury he sustained in September of 2020, and also some speculation of a second surgery, but nothing on that was ever confirmed. Cohen has, however, indicated he wasn’t ready to play last season in the manner in which he’s accustomed to playing.

“I want to be the player that I was before I got hurt,” Cohen said from a recent appearance on Rally House. “I’m scared to come back a different player not the same as I was. I won’t let myself come back before I’m ready and before I feel I can put the same performances on that I was putting on before I got hurt.”

His teammates clearly value and respect the work he was putting in a year ago as they voted him their 2021 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

At 5’6”, 191 pounds Cohen relies on his quickness and explosiveness, so if that’s gone and if Cohen can’t perform at the same level he was before tearing up his knee, then the Bears would probably part ways with him. If the Bears keep him on the roster for 2022 his cap hit is $5.75 million, but if they do let him go as a post June 1 cut they’ll save $4 million.

2022 OUTLOOK - A lot hinges on Cohen’s health, because if he’s good to go that give the Bears a heck of a top three at the position, so there’s no point in adding any name players to the group. But even if Cohen is released I don’t see a point in adding anything more than a UDFA or a young vet minimum player that may have some experience with the new terminology.

The NFL Draft makes no sense for the Bears since they only have 5 picks, plus with Montgomery and Herbert under contract and primed to take on the bulk of work, using draft capital on a back this year is pointless.

Some have thrown out the possibility of the Bears trading Montgomery as he’s in the final year of his deal, and if that happens the Bears would save about $2.7 million this season. I can’t see that happening because from a value perspective, no team will give up much more than a day three pick for a veteran running back, which is something the Bears could get as a comp pick if they let him walk.

As far as extending Montgomery’s contract... I can’t see that happening either. It’s more likely they let him play out 2022 and then see what the market tells them about veteran running backs next offseason.