Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney has been far and away the team’s best and most consistent offensive playmaker over the past two seasons. Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that the Bears and Mooney would have extension talks as soon as the season ended.
Against the Jets, Mooney suffered a season ending ankle injury in which he suffered multiple torn ligaments, which complicates some future extension talks.
Quarterback Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney have a well documented chemistry that developed right when Fields got drafted by the Bears. One of the most valuable things for a young Quarterback is a guy who he feels comfortable throwing the football to. A lot of times it’s a Tight End or someone who’s close to the Quarterback in age. Mooney came in a year before Fields, but both guys are young players trying to take their game to the next level, and both guys are relying on each other to become better players.
You don’t let a guy like Mooney walk. He has a good relationship with the quarterback, his teammates like him, he wants to be in Chicago, and of course, he’s a very good wide receiver. So how do the Bears attack this contract extension?
Projections before this injury, Darnell Mooney’s projected contract extension was somewhere in the $10-15 million range, based on what guys like Michael Gallup got in free agency. Gallup got a 5 year $62.5 million deal in free agency this last year, as that was after an ACL tear, so I expect the Bears to give Mooney somewhere in the range of a 4-year 48 million dollar deal or 3-year 36 million. So I think Mooney will get about $12 million per year, and I think he’s worth that.
But how do the Bears view Mooney? Do they truly see him as a WR1? Well, spoiler alert, they should not. Mooney simply isn’t the type of wide receiver who makes the plays that a WR1 should make, and that’s perfectly fine. They would be wise to invest a high draft pick in one of the best WRs in the draft. A guy like Jordan Addison, Quentin Johnston, or Jaxon Smith-Njigba would completely change the offense.
Adding a guy like I listed would move down the depth chart. Mooney would thrive in the Tyler Lockett or Devonta Smith role. He’s so fast and a shifty route runner, but he wouldn’t be a top 2 contested catch option on the team with Chase Claypool and a rookie being those three guys. It just opens the offense a lot more. It benefits Fields and it benefits Mooney.
So, the idea that this injury will keep the Bears from paying Darnell Mooney isn’t one that I agree with. In fact, I believe the Bears will get a Darnell Mooney extension done before a Jaylon Johnson extension. Johnson has been a little bit lackluster with his development, and while I love Johnson as a player, I could see it turning into something similar to the Roquan Smith situation, but maybe not with the same result.