The Chicago Bears are counting on wide receiver Chase Claypool to be a key part of their offense for the 2023 season, confirming the high price they paid to acquire him in a trade last November, but rumors of offseason discontent have at least one analyst to question whether he will even make their roster.
Christopher Knox of Bleacher Report recently broke down a list of eight veteran players he believes could find themselves on the roster bubble during training camp this year, highlighting the 24-year-old Claypool at the top of his list, citing a report from ESPN 1000’s Marc Silverman earlier this offseason, who said his development “isn’t trending the way the Bears have wanted it to trend this offseason.”
“With DJ Moore, Robert Tonyan Jr. and rookie fourth-round pick Tyler Scott joining the receiving corps this offseason — and Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet returning — Claypool isn’t guaranteed to be one of Justin Fields’ top targets,” wrote Knox.
“Chicago is already out the draft pick it paid for Claypool, but it could save $3 million by releasing him. If the 24-year-old can’t show that he grasps Luke Getsy’s offense and is willing to work hard to contribute, the Bears could cut their losses and cut him.
The Bears traded their own second-round pick (which ended up being No. 32 overall) to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Claypool last November and saw little return on investment in his first half-season in Chicago as injuries and playbook complications slowed him down . While general manager Ryan Poles has stood by his decision and continues to tout Claypool’s potential for 2023, Bears could save about $2.993 million against the cap if they decided to show him the door before the start of the regular season.
The obvious question, of course, is: Why on earth would they ever do that?
It is highly unlikely that the Bears Cut Chase Claypool in 2023
Silverman’s report on how Claypool has performed is a bit concerning for the Bears given the high expectations they have for him in 2023, but it’s also worth noting that former longtime Bears scout Greg Gabriel — who still has several sources in the organization. – has ruled Silverman’s story “false”. He even went so far as to share details of a “private conversation” he had with Poles about Claypool during the offseason, suggesting there is very little danger of Claypool being jettisoned.
“Polak told me he realized a lot of fans and media were unhappy with the trade because he had to give up what turned out to be the 32nd pick,” Gabriel wrote on June 17th for Windy City Gridiron. “He also said the results of the trade have yet to be seen and that he fully expects Claypool to have a big year. He added: ‘If I had the chance to trade the whole thing, it would take me about five seconds to say yes.’
No matter what report fans choose to believe, there just isn’t much logic to the Bears getting rid of Claypool before next offseason. One of the biggest criticisms of the Bears offense in 2022 was their lack of weapons, and while they’ve added Moore and Scott to the equation since then, Claypool is still expected to play an integral role as a big-bodied possession receiver — and a likely starter — with massive upside for 2023.
Even if Claypool disappoints in camp and somehow falls out of the starting lineup, there’s almost zero chance he wouldn’t make the roster as a depth receiver. Because honestly, who would replace him? Equanimeous St. Brown, who has about as much career production as Claypool had in each of his first two seasons? Or Dante Pettis, who was asked for more drops during the 2022 season?
Knox may think he’s on to something with his warning about Claypool’s future in Chicago, but don’t expect the team to make a firm decision on his future until 2024.
Which Bears WRs are on the Roster Bubble for camp?
While the odds of Claypool not making the Bears’ first 53-man roster are extremely low, there are a few names among their 2023 receiving corps who could find themselves on the chopping block when decisions are made about the guard at the end of camp in August.
Dante Pettis is the most important. The Bears opted to re-sign him on April 17 after he played in every game for them in 2022 and posted 19 receptions for 245 yards and three touchdowns — all three of which were the second-best marks of his five-year career. He also served as their primary punt returner for most of the season. Given that the Bears have added a few options in the return game this offseason, Pettis will likely have to earn his stripes as a receiver and, as of now, projects to be the WR7 of the group.
The Bears could also have decisions to make with Equanimeous St. Brown and Velus Jones Jr. The latter seems safer as he was a third-round pick just a year ago and showed flashes of his quick-play ability toward the end of his uneven rookie season in 2022, but he could find himself in trouble if he fails to take the next steps and underperforms in training camp. The Bears need a solid return specialist, so if Jones can show progress in that arena, he should make the roster as a depth receiver.
As for Brown, he was a better receiver (21 catches, 323 yards) and blocker than Pettis in 2022, but he’ll have to consistently outperform Pettis in camp to avoid switching spots with him on the guard bubble. The Bears could part with one of them and hardly bat an eye in terms of cost, as both receivers play for close to the veteran minimum in 2023, so it could just come down to which one offers the more stable option as a depth receiver behind the younger, more skilled group of starters.