In A Nod To Justin Fields, Bears Pay High Price To Add Chase Claypool

Give Ryan Poles credit for working both sides of the street.

While trading away assets in defensive standouts Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn, the Bears’ rookie general manager also made an intriguing addition, adding pass-catching specimen Chase Claypool in a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Claypool, 24, is under control for a season and a half before reaching free agency. He was an expensive proposition, with ESPN reporting it took a second-round pick to land him. The Bears had added three picks in the Smith and Quinn trades, making it easier to pay such a high price.

Poles appears to believe the Notre Dame product will help the development of second-year quarterback Justin Fields, joining Darnell Mooney as a primary target. The Bears have plenty of cap room on their deconstructed roster, which will allow the team to consider extensions for both Claypool and Mooney in the off-season. Claypool was a second-round pick in 2020; the Bears landed Mooney three rounds later.

Mooney and Claypool are an ideal tandem, at least on paper. The speedy Mooney is listed at 5-11, 173 pounds; Claypool is 6-4, 238 and has the leaping skills to go up in the air for passes on the sideline or in the end zone. He’s brought in 32 of 50 targets with Pittsburgh this season, averaging 9.7 yards per catch but scoring only one touchdown.

Poles, who is replacing Ryan Paces as the GM of a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason game since the 2010 season, focused on the defense in his first off-season in charge of the Bears. He appears to be shifting at least some of his focus to the offense around Fields, who has had to largely manufacture offense on his own.

Both Claypool and Mooney had breakout seasons as rookies, combining to make 123 catches for 1504 yards and 13 touchdowns. But Claypool’s production had decreased as Mooney’s role with the Bears increased. The transition from Ben Roethlisberger to Kenny Pickett has been rocky for the Steelers, who rank 24th in the NFL with 203.9 passing yards per game. That modest total represents a goal for the Bears, who are last with 126.9 per game.

Fields, who is constantly scrambling behind a patchwork offensive line, has been sacked 31 times while getting off only 159 passes. Mooney’s 25 catches are 11 more than the next most targeted wide receiver, Equanimeous St. Brown.

Claypool was the second-most targeted wide receiver in Pittsburgh but had fallen far behind No. 1 target Diontae Johnson. Rookie George Pickens does not have an many catches at Claypool but has more passing yardage.

Like the 3-5 Bears, the Steelers (2-6) are viewing this as a rebuilding year. They jumped at a chance to get a second-round pick for a secondary target but Claypool could play a major role for Fields and the Bears.