As receivers N’Keal Harry and Bryon Pringle are both expected to miss time due to injuries, the Bears might soon be in the market for wide receiver help to cover their absence. Let’s look at some of the best free-agent receivers still on the market and what they could bring to the Bears.
Fuller will probably be one of the more popular names you’ll see pop up in Bears’ media circles. The 28-year-old is only one season removed from his best year statistically, where he put up 879 yards on 53 receptions while tacking on eight touchdowns in Houston. That same season (2020), Fuller led the league in yards per target at a tick of 11.7.
On top of this, the former first-rounder fits the Bears’ speedy receiver mold, having once clocked a 4.32 40-yard dash time. The main concern with Fuller is the injury bug, which has hung with him since he entered the NFL. In his five seasons with Houston, Fuller played in 14, 10, seven, 11, and 11 games, respectively. Last season with Miami, he only played in two, having missed the first game due to a suspension and then later being shut down for the season because of a broken thumb.
However, at only 28, you hope Fuller can bounce back from last year, stay mostly healthy, and give whoever signs him a couple of years of the good play he had a reputation for.
If you’re looking for experience and past pedigree to add to your roster, Hilton might be your guy. The 10-year veteran has put up five 1000-yard seasons, including four straight between 2013 and 2016. He’s also appeared in four Pro Bowls.
However, Hilton’s best days are likely behind him. Last season represented career lows in receptions (23), yards (331), and touchdowns (three). On the flip side of that, Hilton was targeted less than ever by a wide margin (partially due to him only playing in 10 games), and he still managed to put up a respectable 14.4 yards a reception — the best number he put up in that category since 2018. A move to Chicago could spark a career rejuvenation for Hilton. At the very least, the 32-year-old would bring some much-needed experience and leadership to a fairly young receiving corps.
Sanders might be the most reliable veteran left on the market. During his 12-season career, the SMU alum has quietly established himself as one of the most consistent targets in the league. He hasn’t failed to reach 600 receiving yards since the 2017 season when he played in 12 games. Before that, you’d have to go way back to 2011 to find another sub-600 season.
Sanders is a two-time Pro Bowler and put up a trio of 1000-yard seasons during his tenure with Denver. Last season, Sanders was Josh Allen’s third favorite target on a good Bills team, reeling in 42 receptions for 626 yards. The main concern with Sanders is gonna be his age. While he’s mostly managed to avoid father time thus far, there has to be a little concern that the turn is coming soon for the 35-year-old. Until then, if you’re looking for a stabilizing veteran force for your team, Sanders fits that bill.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Maybe the most interesting remaining receiver free agent (or just free agent in general), Beckham Jr. represents a huge wild card.
On the one hand, he might very well be the most talented receiver on this list. Beckham started his career with an Offensive Rookie of the Year award and three straight Pro Bowls. Plus, besides 2017 and 2020 (where Beckham was fighting injuries), he put up 1000-yard seasons every year. The 2021 season started out rough for the talented wideout, but a mid-season trade to the Rams helped him turn things around and even got him a Super Bowl ring. Unfortunately, Beckham tore his ACL in the big game, his second tear since 2017, which of course, raises some injury concerns.
The other main concern with Beckham Jr. is all off-field. The man has garnered a bit of a reputation as having attitude issues, which is what largely led to his falling out with Cleveland. At 29 years old, Beckham should still have some good years left in him, but his spotty injury history and questions about off-field attitude make him a bit of a risk to bring in.
A potential diamond-in-the-rough type guy, Westbrook has the speed (a 4.39 40-yard dash) to fit in nicely with all the other speedsters the Bears employ. The former fourth-rounder looked poised to break out after strong campaigns with the Jags in 2018 (717 yards) and 2019 (660 yards). A torn ACL in Week 7 of 2020 prevented that from happening, however. Then with the Vikings in 2021, Westbrook was only targeted 15 times.
Maybe Westbrook just isn’t cut out to be in the NFL, or maybe he just needs to find himself in the right system. He’s not gonna cost a ton of money, so it might be worth it for someone to take a flyer on the 28-year-old and see if he can get back to putting up close to 700 yards.
Despite being in the league since 2012, Beasley really started to shine once he became one of Josh Allen’s favorite weapons in Buffalo. While he’s yet to cross the thousand-yard mark in his career, he’s come awfully close twice; once while with Dallas in 2016 (833 yards), and in 2020, where his 967-yard season earned him Second Team All-Pro honors.
Beasley dropped off a little last season, where even though he was targeted more than ever (112 times), he only put up 693 yards. That’s his lowest total since his last season in Dallas (2018), and his mark of 6.2 yards a target was also the third lowest in his 10-season career. Beasley’s politics off the field (which he is quite vocal about) has stirred up some controversy, but that issue seems to have taken a back seat as reports say plenty of teams have shown interest in the 33-year-old. The undersized Beasley could bring some nice grit to a Chicago receiving lineup mainly focused on speed and would add a nice changeup option.