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Chicago Bears 2023 Roster Turnover: Do you expect a big move at wide receiver?

In this 12-part series, we’ll take an in-depth look at each position group for the Chicago Bears with an eye toward the 2023 season. We’ll speculate on who stays, who goes, and a few possible additions we’d like to see general manager Ryan Poles make.

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The last time the Chicago Bears got number-one-receiver type of production from a player was Allen Robinson in 2020. That season A-Rob racked up 102 receptions, 1,250 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. If you add up all the production from the top four targeted wide receivers on the Bears during the 2022 season, it totals 94 receptions, 1,201 yards, and 6 touchdowns.

Of course, there were some circumstances surrounding Chicago's passing game, but it's still sad that it took four players combined to get near those same levels.

The Bears need a legit WR1, or at the very least a couple of dependable WR2s, and I would expect them to address the position in the draft and free agency to some degree.

In this 12-part series, I'll 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.

Darnell Mooney - Signed through 2023 - Mooney struggled early last season, as did the entire passing game, and then once he settled in, he got injured. If you're looking for a few positives from Mooney's numbers a season ago, one would be his catch percentage improving from 57.9% to 65.6% in ‘22. Pro Football Reference only had him down for 2 drops, and his drop percentage fell from 6.4% in 2021 to 3.3%, and his average yards per target went from 7.5 to 8.1.

The Bears are still high on Mooney, as is quarterback Justin Fields, so an extension is likely this offseason.

Chase Claypool - Signed through 2023 - As a rookie in 2020 with the Steelers, Claypool went for 62 receptions for 873 yards in 16 games. In 2021 he chipped in with 59 catches for 860 receiving yards. But last year, between Chicago and Pittsburgh, his production dropped to 46 and 451 in 15 total games, with just 14 grabs for 140 yards in the 7 games he played in Chicago.

The Bears are banking on Claypool (6'4", 238) settling into the offense with a full offseason to prepare and looking like the dynamic playmaker that ran a 4.42 forty and vertical jumped an impressive 40.5' at his NFL Combine.

Equanimeous St. Brown - Signed through 2023 - The Bears liked what they got so much from ESB in 2022 (21 receptions, 323 yards, 1 TD) that they already re-signed him to another one-year deal. He started all 16 games he played in and was on the field for 55% of the offensive snaps. Best case scenario for him and the Bears is that he's the WR4 or WR5.

Velus Jones Jr. - Signed through 2025 - The Bears need their 2022 third-round draft pick to establish a role for himself on the team, and if that's just as a return specialist that can get a handful of offensive touches per game, that's probably good enough. Use him deep, hit him on some crossers, some slants, and a few touches out of the backfield, then defenses will need to be wary of his 4.3 speed.

Dante Pettis - Free agent - Pettis played better than I figured he would, so I won't rule out a return, but he can not be on the field again for all 17 games and 554 snaps.

Byron Pringle - Free agent - Such a disappointing year from Pringle, and he's most likely gone.

N'Keal Harry - Free agent - Harry is just trying to hang on to his NFL career at this point.

Nsimba Webster - Signed through 2023 - I could see him back to fight for a practice squad spot due to his special teams experience.

Daurice Fountain - Signed through 2023 - The Bears will need some bodies this offseason, and that's where Fountain and the next player fit in. The Bears are Fountain's third team since being a fifth-round pick in 2018, and he has 2 receptions in 8 games as a pro.

Joe Reed - Signed through 2023 - Reed was a fifth-rounder in 2020, and his only action came as a rookie when he played in 11 games for the Chargers and had 21 kickoff returns and 5 rushes for 29 yards and a TD.

2023 OUTLOOK - Claypool and Mooney are a nice start to a professional receiving corps, but NFL teams need at least three viable wide outs these days. I have my doubts that either of those two will become a no doubt about it, game on the line, go to number one receiver, but there are only a handful of those players in the league right now. I see these two maxed out as a WR2/WR3 on a good team, and that's fine.

I can’t see the Bears dropping huge money on a free agent because Claypool was this regime’s big move, but if the right guy shakes loose as a cap casualty or a trade target, then adding an established professional receiver for Fields couldn’t hurt.

Fans are hopeful for a Tee Higgins trade, but that seems unlikely, as does getting Allen Lazard in free agency (another popular target from fans). Claypool and St. Brown make up the big-body receiver type on the roster, and it would make more sense to go for another shifty slot or Z wide out.

I don’t think a receiver will be found in the first round this year, but if their board falls just right and a speed threat is there on day two or three, they may pounce. Teams value different traits in receivers, which could benefit the Bears on draft weekend because someone they like will fall further than most predict.

What do you think the Bears will do at wide receiver this offseason?