Running backs matter. They really do. I know many believe they’re a dime a dozen, but the reality is a good running game is still needed in today’s NFL. The issue teams run into is when a back’s contract is up, and it’s time to pay because you can’t reward him for past production, and it’s rare when a running back continues to ascend as a player into their late 20s. It’s a physically demanding position, which lends itself to teams churning through players, so finding a committee to handle the load can be a solution.
The Chicago Bears find themselves with one good runner under contract, but his game has some deficiencies. They are also in a unique position with a ton of cap space, which is why they may pay decent money to a running back this offseason.
In this 12-part series, I list the contract status of all the current Chicago players on a position-by-position basis while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
David Montgomery - Free agent - Montgomery is a good football player. He’s effective in the passing game as both a receiver and a blocker, but while he’s a tough runner, he hasn’t proven to be an explosive runner. He’ll be 26 this summer, so a two or three-year deal could make sense for the team, but it’ll be up to Montgomery to accept what the market dictates.
Maybe a better offensive line and a more dynamic offense will open some things up for him... but the backup did just average 1.7 yards more per carry in the same situation.
Khalil Herbert - Signed through 2024 - If Herbert could do what Montgomery does in the passing game, he’d be the featured back in the offense, but he’s still not the best in blitz pickup, and he’s yet to show he could be a consistent receiver. The Bears can’t head into the 2023 season with Herbert as the number one, but as a change-of-pace runner, he’s fantastic. It’ll be up to offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to ensure they aren’t tipping plays with personnel.
Ideally, Herbert would have a big offseason working on what he can do in the passing game and see his playing time move closer to 50/50 with Montgomery in 2023.
Trestan Ebner - Signed through 2025 - I was disappointed in Ebner’s rookie year, especially considering how much he was used as a receiver in college. Either the Bears couldn’t figure out how to get him involved, or he didn’t warrant the playing time. My guess is the latter, and he’ll have some competition brought in this offseason for his reserve spot.
Darrynton Evans - Restricted free agent - Evans is an okay reserve back, and as an RFA, I could see him returning to compete.
Khari Blasingame - Free agent - I like the idea of keeping a fullback on the roster, and Blasingame appeared in 16 games while playing on 174 offensive snaps (18%) and 215 on special teams (52%). This position isn’t paid a premium, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he returned.
2023 OUTLOOK - I’d like to see Montgomery return, and reading between the lines on what has come out from Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles, I think the team would like him back too. The key, naturally, is the size of the deal, and a recent projection from Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger is for three years, $19.5 million, and $12.25 million guaranteed. That’s essentially a two-year deal and a reasonable price for both parties.
Several other running backs could be hitting free agency that would give the Bears options, but all things considered, my guess is D-Mo isn’t going anywhere. On Bear & Balanced last night, we spoke with Greg Gabriel, who let us know the Bears value the all-around play and leadership Montgomery brings.
Regardless of what the Bears do with Montgomery, I imagine there will be a rookie or two (or three) brought in this offseason, either on day three of the draft or with the UDFA market.
What do you think the Bears are doing at running back this offseason?