The Chicago Bears offensive woes have held this team back for years, but this past season the Bears have finally been able to establish a legitimate run game behind quarterback Justin Fields, and running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. The Bears had the number one rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 177 yards per game. While the pass game struggled, Fields was electric on the ground, and combined with running back workhorse Montgomery, this trio was a legitimate threat.
Montgomery, a fan favorite and one of the best players on Chicago’s offense, was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Iowa State. Over the past four seasons, Montgomery has produced consistent results, accumulating over 3,600 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns throughout his career. This offseason, Montgomery is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career. So what should the Bears do?
Re-signing Montgomery would be a smart move – if it was for the right price. Right now, the Bears have a reliable 1-2 punch with Montgomery and Herbert, arguably the strongest part of this team. Montgomery has improved with pass catching out of the backfield, adding another dimension to his role with 316 receiving yards in 2022. Furthermore, Montgomery’s leadership and reputation as a workhorse has been integral to team chemistry and morale; he adds life to an offense who desperately needs it.
Losing Montgomery would hurt the Bears, but it could be easily fixed. The reality is that running backs are one of the most easily replaceable positions in football. A good run game starts at the offensive line, not the running back. Teams that pay their running backs the big bucks haven’t won a Super Bowl in the past decade – I.e. Ezekiel Elliot earns 12,400,000 dollars per year and the Dallas Cowboys haven’t reached the NFC championship this century. Now take a look at the last few teams to win a Super Bowl: the Los Angeles Rams pay Cam Akers 1.5 million annually, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pay Leonard Fournette 7 million annually. General managers spend their money on their offensive line, their secondary, edge rushers, and their quarterback. These are the positions that are much harder to replace and absolutely essential for a team’s success.
The Bears are projected to have over 100 million dollars in cap space, the most in the league. But there are too many other positions on this roster that need to be addressed before giving Montgomery money – offensive line, edge, and cornerback to name a few. Not to mention, Khalil Herbert has made a name for himself this past season as the secondary running back. Herbert averaged 5.7 yards per carry, the most in the NFL, and scored four touchdowns. If the Bears can’t reach a deal with Montgomery, they have a legitimate lead back who they trust with Herbert, and a plethora of draft picks to pick up a second guy, for example Tyrae Spears from Tulane and Roschon Johnson from Texas who would fit in nicely in the Bears offense. The point: Montgomery is a solid player, but not worth Christian McCaffrey type money when he can easily be replaced.
The Beats haven’t made a decision on what to do with Montgomery yet, but it will have a significant impact on the draft, the rest of the offseason, and the 2023 season. General manager Ryan Poles says he hopes to re-sign Montgomery, but the decision will ultimately come down to money. Given all the Bears needs, Poles must make the right decision and that means not overpaying for Montgomery.