As the NFL season comes to an end, Chicago Bears fans are eagerly awaiting an offseason that is sure to bring substantial changes to the team’s roster. Armed with premium draft picks and a bounty of cap space, General Manager Ryan Poles and his staff are sure to bring in tons of new talent. Media members, along with Bears fans, have already begun trying to connect the Bears to nearly every soon-to-be free agent. While many of these anticipated names — such as Commanders DL Daron Payne — would make sense for Chicago, there’s one name that’s been tossed around that the Bears should avoid at all costs: Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Barkley has become a popular name among Bears fans thanks in part to his contributions to a New York Giants team that greatly exceeded expectations this season. He was arguably the most important player on the Giants’ offense, accounting for over 1,600 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns. As an impending free agent, Barkley could provide a much-needed spark to the Bears’ offense, especially with Bears starting back David Montgomery set to hit the open market.
However, Saquon Barkley will (deservedly) demand a massive contract this offseason, and the Bears should avoid handing him the deal he desires. While Barkley is incredibly talented, he plays arguably the least valuable non-special teams position in football. Every year, teams prove that starting-caliber running backs can be found pretty much anywhere. This makes it hard to justify allocating important resources— whether that’s a hefty contract or a high draft pick — on a running back. Barkley’s health is also a concern, as he’s missed 22 games in his five career seasons and been hobbled by injuries in multiple years. There’s a reason Barkley’s ability was being questioned as recently as before this season.
The two-time Pro Bowl back is set to sign one of the league’s largest running back contracts this offseason. He reportedly turned down a contract that would have paid him $12 million annually. Christian McCaffrey, the league’s highest-paid back, makes roughly $16 million per year, and it would not be surprising if Barkley’s new deal ended up being for a similar amount. And while Barkley deserves to be paid that much money, a team with as many roster holes as the Bears should not be the team to give him that contract. There are so many other positions that the Bears need to address; paying top-tier money to a player at a non-premium position would be detrimental to the team’s spending plans.
In addition, the Bears proved this year that they do not necessarily need an elite running back. By many metrics, they were the league’s best rushing offense with the tandem of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert (though much of the team’s rushing production came from quarterback Justin Fields). Retaining Montgomery, a productive player who knows how to operate in Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy’s system, would come at a much lower price than signing Barkley. If Montgomery walks, the team could easily find a productive back in the free agent bargain bin or in a later round of the draft.
Overall, while Saquon Barkley is an immensely talented player who would add some juice to the Bears’ offense, paying a running back top money should not be in Chicago’s offseason plans. Handing out contracts to players at more important positions would lead to a significantly better team than any production a back could bring.