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10 Bears with the most to prove in 2023: Chase Claypool

Chase Claypool enter his first full season in Chicago with plenty on the line

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We’ve reached the final two on our list of the 10 Chicago Bears with the most to prove. To check out the entire list, check out the story stream here. Two wide receivers, Velus Jones and Darnell Mooney, have already made the list, but the receiver with the most to prove finds himself second on our list.

2. Chase Claypool

Regardless of how some people may spin it, Chase Claypool’s 2022 season was a major disappointment, plain and simple.

Claypool came over midseason in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers that cost Ryan Poles a second round pick that eventually became the 32nd overall pick. Claypool had nine games to perform in Chicago. He struggled early and was injured late and never even put together anything close to what would be considered a decent game. He averaged 2 catches per game in Chicago with a catch rate below 50% and only had one game where he had more than 30 yards receiving.

Claypool now enters a contract year in 2023. If Claypool wants to earn a high-dollar contract from the Bears or another team in the NFL, he has plenty to prove this season. After missing time at the end of the season and not participating (on the field) in OTAs, you can bet that other NFL teams have taken note that Chase’s availability has not been good lately. If that continues during the regular season, there will be plenty of teams that cross him off their free agent target list.

Not only is Claypool going to have to prove he’s healthy, he’s going to have to show that he has a grasp of the Bears’ offense and can be a legitimate weapon that Justin Fields can utilize. Claypool is a ridiculous athlete and, based on talent, he should have no problem proving that. But when you take everything under consideration about Claypool, it certainly is a question mark.

Fields had a very telling comment about Claypool earlier in the offseason. “Chase has improved tremendously, just from the end of last year to now,” Fields said. “That’s one thing I’m truly proud to say, just seeing his work ethic, his attitude change, you can just see he’s taken another step. Definitely excited for that.”

Obviously, there’s plenty of positivity in how Fields framed that answer, but there are some interesting things when you comb through the comment, specifically “his attitude change.” Attitude was one of the main reasons Claypool is no longer a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It had nothing to do with talent and ability, it had to do with his presence on the team.

To see Claypool get a fresh start and not take advantage of it last season, was certainly alarming for Fields, the coaching staff and front office, and now Claypool has one more season to change their minds and invest in him moving forward.

Fields says Claypool is off to a great start, but that quote was also before Claypool started sitting out days of practice. That time off prompted a comment from ESPN Chicago’s Marc Silverman who said the Bears are not exactly happy with where Chase Claypool is right now.

None of this matters if Claypool performs come September, but there’s plenty of reason for concern. Moving forward for Claypool, he’s probably in an unofficial competition with Darnell Mooney for an extension in Chicago this season. DJ Moore is already making nearly $20 million a year and extending a couple more receivers well into 8 figures a season is not something teams would consider doing. Extending both Claypool and Mooney would mean the Bears would have committed roughly 20% of their total salary cap to three players that play the same position. Most teams won’t allocate resources that way and I wouldn’t expect Ryan Poles to do so either.

Mooney easily has the inside track for an extension right now. He’s been in Chicago longer, has proven that he’s a quality teammate and has excellent chemistry with Justin Fields. That means Claypool has his work in front of him if he’s going to jump Mooney in the eyes of Poles.

There’s probably a better than 50% chance that Claypool’s days in Chicago will end in January of 2024, but Claypool has more on the line than just trying to keep his job in Chicago, he’s off to prove to the entire NFL that he’s worth a lucrative contract, and right now, most teams probably don’t think he is. He has 17 games to prove them wrong.