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Projecting a Darnell Mooney contract extension

Now that Cole Kmet’s extension is finished, what could one look like for Darnell Mooney

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears still have money to spend. Not only do they have money to spend, they still have money they need to spend. Every team has a spending floor, and because Ryan Poles shed so many hefty salaries during his first year, the Bears were below that floor and have to spend money before the 2024 league year starts next March. That meant the Bears were either going to have to sign an edge during August (which still could happen) and/or extend multiple players on their current roster.

Poles started off the spending by giving Cole Kmet a 4-year contract extension worth $50 million. But Poles still probably needs to sign two more players prior to next March. He could do that with the aforementioned edge signing, but that would mean he would also need to extend either Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool or Jaylon Johnson.

Let’s focus on Mooney.

Mooney really came into his own during the 2021 season. He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and really built chemistry with Justin Fields. But Mooney’s 2022 season was one where the passing game struggled under Luke Getsy and Mooney’s season was cut short with an injury.

Now Mooney enters the final year of his rookie contract and is eligible for an extension. The Bears speak very highly of Mooney both on the field and in the locker room, and Fields speaks highly of him every chance he gets. Mooney has stated that he loves it here in Chicago and you have to think that between Mooney’s love of Chicago, his connection with Fields, and the fact that he’s already had an injury, he may be willing to take a team-friendly contract. But just how friendly?

We need to look at comps and try to figure where Mooney fits in that puzzle. There are currently 13 wide receivers that have contracts that pay them north of $20 million per season. They include players like Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel. Mooney isn’t in that tier, so let’s look at the next group down. That group includes Mike Evans, Diontae Johnson and Tyler Lockett. Still a little too rich for Darnell.

It’s that next tier where things get interesting. That includes Courtland Sutton and Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow received a 2-year contract extension totaling $31.7 million in June of 2022. The Broncos extended Sutton pn a 4-year contract that totaled $60 million in November of 2022.

What we have here is two players with recent contract extensions and similar statistical outputs to Mooney. Mooney had 2179 receiving yards in his first three years. Renfrow had 2299. Renfrow had a better catch rate and a better yards-per-target rate as well, but he was also in an offense with a much more refined passing game than what Mooney has dealt with here in Chicago.

Sutton’s 2020 season was wiped out due to injury, but if you look at his 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons, you’ll see a player that had 2594 receiving yards but also had a catch rate lower than Mooney’s but a better yards per target. But Mooney is a good year to year and a half younger than both these receivers when they were extended.

These two players are certainly where Darnell and his agent are going to get to work. Typically these contracts are four-year extensions, but it wouldn’t shock me if Mooney is willing to take a shorter deal that gives him a second chance to cash in on a contract. Mooney is going to expect the passing game to significantly improve over the next couple of seasons and he will be a direct beneficiary of that. What he receives this season, could be significantly less than what his value would be a couple seasons down the road.

The issue from the Bears' perspective is going to be health. Mooney finished the 2022 season on the injured list, and the Bears are going to want to see Mooney on the field and performing at the level they expect. That means the Bears may want to see Mooney play some games in the regular season before they extend him and make sure there are no lingering issues with his broken ankle.

That means Mooney could be extended during the season like the Broncos did with Sutton. Once they know he is the same productive player, that’s when they put the ink on paper. Waiting a few months would cost the Bears probably a little bit in terms of cash because Mooney would be proving that he is healthy and productive, but that would be a small price to pay in insurance for Ryan Poles and the front office.

If Mooney is intrigued with a second payday and the Bears may be concerned with a four-year commitment with a player with a significant injury, a short-term deal may be beneficial to both sides. I would suspect the Bears would be comfortable with a three-year deal, but would Mooney? If Mooney inks for three seasons, that means he would be a free agent again after the 2026 season and Mooney will be staring down his 30th birthday that October. That’s certainly an age where teams start getting hesitant about passing out larger contracts. If Mooney signs for three years, he probably should just try to ink for four years.

That probably means Mooney could be intrigued by a two-year extension where he hits free agency again with two more years where he starts the season under the age of thirty. That would give him the potential for another contract with two plus seasons guaranteed assuming he continues to play well.

That means we are looking at a Renfrow-type extension. But you need to factor in that Mooney is younger. Mooney’s production is similar despite being in a far less efficient passing game and that Mooney’s deal would be done in the middle of another productive season and factor in a couple more seasons of NFL contract “inflation” and now we know where we are looking.

If we are going to project a Mooney extension, it’s one that could happen as late as November of this season, and would be something in the realm of a two-year deal worth $33 million. That’s $16.5 million per season. In terms of guarantees, Renfrow had $21 million guaranteed on his deal and Johnson had $27 million guaranteed on his. For Mooney, $24 million seems just about right.

Bears fans, would you like that extension for Mooney? Sound off in the comments below!