Should the Bears consider keeping Darnell Mooney?
Mike Dinovo - USA Today Sports

Should the Bears consider keeping Darnell Mooney?

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - What a difference two years can make. In 2021, Darnell Mooney was Chicago’s leading receiver and had over 1,000 yards. In 2022, he tore a ligament in his right ankle and missed the last five games of the season. Yet in 2022, he had more receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns than he did this past season.

Given that decline, is there any chance that the Bears keep Mooney? While the initial reaction may be absolutely not, there is an argument for Mooney to stay around, even if it is just a one-year contract.

Starting with his contract, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. He made almost $3 last season, the most lucrative season of his career thus far. Any receiver in the NFL who is not on a rookie contract is not going to make what Mooney made in each of his first three seasons, which was under $1 each season. So, a one-year, $3 contract may be a feasible option.

Further, there is not going to be a free agent pickup that is going to be less than that. If you want a receiver as a third receiver or maybe fourth receiver, you might as well have someone who already has chemistry with the players. That is particularly true if Chicago decides to keep quarterback Justin Fields going into next season. Mooney would just have to accept the reality of not getting as much playing time as he is used to, although that would most likely be the case whether he was in Chicago or not next season.

Mooney also had a lot of things playing against him this past season. First, he missed training camp recovering from his torn ligament. So, when the rest of the team was developing chemistry, he was still trying to recover from his injury and was not part of that process. If he were brought back for one more season, he could be part of training camp and develop that chemistry in this offense more. In addition, whatever offensive coordinator the Bears decide to hire, the offense will most likely function better under that person than it did under Luke Getsy.

While there are factors playing in Mooney’s favor, there are also factors playing against him. The Bears have a habit of drafting a receiver on the final day of the draft as they did with Tyler Scott in 2023 and Mooney in 2020. They could spend a little more money in free agency to get a receiver who had a better season last year and then draft a receiver on the final day. They could also draft Marvin Harrison Jr and then pick a receiver in the late rounds.

Either way, there are alternative ways to bring in more receivers. But again, this depends on whether they stick with Fields because if they decide to move on from Fields, they are most likely not going to land Harrison and may need to be more active in free agency.

If they move on from Fields, it would seem likely that they would move on from Mooney. As an organization, you most likely do not want to keep a guy around on a one-year contract that may not be back the next season when you have a rookie quarterback. Conversely, you want that quarterback to develop chemistry with a fundamental piece of your team. There is also no veteran appeal because DJ Moore is a more seasoned receiver.

Mooney’s chances of staying with the Bears and getting one final chance to prove himself will depend a lot on who they hire as offensive coordinator and whether or not they stick with Justin Fields. But, it would be no surprise if he is forced to move on from Chicago.

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