The Bears have several players who are now eligible for contract extensions, including up-and-coming receivers Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, as well as star cornerback Jaylon Johnson. The biggest question for Bears fans is whether these players will be re-signed or not. Ryan Poles has said that he will look into extensions closer to the season, most likely in June and July. These players may ask for more money than the market average, so the numbers in this article will take everything into consideration, including the current market, inflation, position, their importance on the team, and the players’ personal opinions.
Darnell Mooney has been a solid WR2 for the Bears over his three years. This season, he dealt with some injuries that hindered his production, but in 2021 he had over 1000 yards while playing with three different quarterbacks. A few receivers that have similar roles and numbers to Mooney are Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Christian Kirk, Denver Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy, and newly signed Las Vegas Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers. However, since Jeudy hasn’t signed a new contract yet, he won’t be featured as much. Christian Kirk signed a 4-year, $72 Million contract with Jacksonville in 2021. This was seen as a massive overpay at the time, and while the WR market has risen, it’s still a significant amount to pay for a career-wide receiver two. This would most likely be the absolute max Mooney could command. With new WR1 DJ Moore making about 20 million per year, it doesn’t make much sense to give Mooney a similar contract. However, a lower contract that might be more realistic for Mooney is Jakobi Meyers’s new contract with the Raiders. He signed a 3-year, $33 million contract. This contract was also surprising but for the opposite reason why Kirk’s was. After Kirk’s contract, the market was speculated to rise significantly for borderline receiver twos. However, it stayed steady, with Meyers only getting $11 million per year. A deal like that would likely be close to what Darnell Mooney could command. Three to four years at $10-12 million a year seems like a fair offer to him. Justin Fields and Mooney have great chemistry, and Mooney has yet to show what he can really do in a competent offense.
Cole Kmet may be the cheapest of the three players, or he may command the largest contract. Kmet shone in the second half of last season, scoring all seven of his touchdowns in week 8 or later. He became a solidified red zone threat and looked better as a receiver. However, his numbers do not exactly reflect that. He has improved in his three seasons, but he has only gone over 600 yards once, and he has only scored nine career touchdowns. Although he is getting better, he likely would not receive a very large contract if he hit the open market right now. However, if he performs much better in 2023, he could command a much higher price in the offseason. A couple of similar tight ends are Dawson Knox and Austin Hooper. Knox signed a 4-year, $52 million extension with the Buffalo Bills, which is a very complicated contract, according to Spotrac, and is heavily backloaded, so he is not really making a salary of $13 million per year. Hooper signed a 4-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in 2020, but he was released in 2022. He then signed a 1-year, $6 million deal with the Titans, and finally signed a 1-year, $2.75 million deal this offseason with the Raiders. Again, one contract is likely at the higher end of a Kmet extension (Knox), while the other is at the lower end (Hooper). With Kmet being a hometown kid and a Bears fan, it may be possible to get a discount. With that being said, a Cole Kmet contract extension would likely be in the 3-4 year range, with Kmet receiving $8-10 million per year. If he has a spectacular breakout season in 2023, it may be closer to $12-15 million per year. Kmet also has good chemistry with Fields and is on the rise. He has become a solidified red zone threat, and the more of those, the better.
Jaylon Johnson will most likely be the most expensive, no matter how he plays. He views himself as a top cornerback in the league, and he has shown that when he’s healthy. “Healthy” is the keyword there. Johnson has missed 11 games over his three-year career, with six of those games being during the 2022 season. When he is in the game, however, he has proven he has the ability to be a top-ten corner in the league. A few similar players who recently signed extensions or new contracts are Marcus Peters and Tre’Davious White. Both players have been good over the course of their careers, and while it’s harder to compare cornerbacks, they seem to have similar styles. Peters signed a 3-year, $42 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 and is currently a free agent at the time of this article. White signed a 4-year, $69 million deal in 2020 with the Buffalo Bills. With Johnson’s play style and his veteran presence in the CB room, he could demand a similar contract. Johnson also seems like the least likely to get a second contract from the Bears, but they may have no choice, as the cornerback room is pretty uninspiring at the moment (besides Johnson). He would most likely ask for 3-4 years and upwards of 15-18 million per year. A realistic number for him would probably be in the 12-15 per year range, but the rising market and his self-evaluation would likely bump that up. It would probably be worth it for the Bears if they could try to reduce the cap hit in the later years of the contract. Johnson is a very good player and will only get better once they surround him with more talent.
Whether or not the Bears do end up resigning these guys remains to be seen, but they all have a valid reason to get their money. They’ve played well for the Bears and are only getting better, as is the team as a whole. It seems the Bears are turning a corner as a franchise, on the field and off. It would make sense for them to want to keep some of their young leaders around.