The 2022 NFL trade deadline was the busiest one in the history of the league. There were a ton of trades completed as teams look to bolster their rosters for the stretch run of the season while others already have an eye toward the future. One team toeing the line of doing both is the Chicago Bears.
Chicago is rebuilding, which is why it made sense that they traded defensive end, Robert Quinn, to the Philadelphia Eagles and linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus inherited one of the weaker rosters in the league, so acquiring draft capital and clearing cap space to really start retooling in 2023 is a viable strategy.
However, they also know that they need to help improve the supporting cast around quarterback Justin Fields. He came into 2022 with very little help around him and it showed in the early going. Beginning to find his footing in the last month or so, the team went out and got him some help ahead of the deadline.
The Bears acquired wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. While many people believe that was an overpay for Claypool, as his production has stagnated the last two seasons after a great rookie campaign, it is easy to understand why Chicago would make such a move.
Claypool possesses a rare blend of size and athleticism, as he looks like a move tight end but has the downfield talent of a speed receiver. The tools to become a legitimate No. 1 receiver are there and Claypool is confident that there is more to him than he was able to show with the Steelers.
“I feel like I didn’t have the full opportunity to show what I can do this year,” Claypool said. “But, I think I’ve been able to show that in the past. And I’m excited to be able to gain that trust with Justin [Fields] to where he knows if he needs a play, he can come to me.”
This season, the Steelers moved Claypool inside to the slot after spending a majority of his first two seasons on the perimeter. Gaining that experience is something that will make his transition to Chicago easier as well, as he can play all three spots in the formation.
“I mean, I think I tried a new position this year in the slot,” Claypool said. “I was outside for my first two years and it wasn’t quite the best fit but it wasn’t the worst either. So, I think maybe it actually helped me in terms of being able to play all three positions on the field now.”
It will take some time for chemistry and cohesion to develop between Fields and Claypool, but he has a chance to quickly ascend the pecking order for targets. Darnell Mooney is the only established wide receiver on the roster, so there is a path to playing time right away.
Armed with a ton of cap space and draft capital, 2023 will be a big off-season for the Bears. Claypool was a solid first addition to the roster as the front office needs to continue bolstering the skill position groups around Fields.