The Bears undoubtedly had quarterback Justin Fields’ recent uptick in mind when they traded for wide receiver Chase Claypool, but they view him as a pillar of their future independently of what they decide on Fields.
There’s uncertainty with Claypool, but he has shown enough in two-plus seasons to warrant a bullish outlook. The combined potential of him and Darnell Mooney gives the Bears their most potent wide receiver duo since Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall nearly a decade ago.
“It could be super dynamic,” Claypool said Wednesday before his first practice. “We’re different receivers — in a good way… It’s going to open the offense up even more so.”
That’s why it’s the best thing the Bears have done for Fields since he arrived.
While Mooney is 5-foot-11, 173 pounds with top-tier speed, Claypool is linebacker-sized at 6-foot-4, 238. His skillset should significantly help Fields on third downs and in the red zone.
There isn’t much projecting necessary with Claypool at 24. He proved what he can bring to an offense with 121 catches for 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus 24 rushes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, over his first two seasons.
He did that predominantly playing on the outside, which figures to be where the Bears will use him.
Claypool’s numbers are down this season — he has 32 catches for 311 yards and a touchdown — and that’s probably partly due to the Steelers moving him to the slot, which he said, “wasn’t quite the best fit.” The quarterback downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger to Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett surely factored into it as well.
“I didn’t have the full opportunity to show what I can do this year, but I think I’ve been able to show that in the past,” Claypool said. “I’m excited to be able to gain that trust with Justin, where he knows if he needs a play he can come to me.”
By the way, dig those No. 10 jerseys out of the basement and break out the duct tape. Claypool will wear Trubisky’s old number when he debuts Sunday against the Dolphins.
The only caution is that the Bears think they know something the Steelers don’t.The Steelers are a model of organizational prudence, and when they move on from a player, there’s usually a reason.
They drafted and developed Claypool, got production from him, then flipped him for a higher draft pick. They took him at No. 49 overall, and the Bears’ second-round pick they got in the trade is currently slotted for No. 39. That’s a curious sequence.
The Bears weren’t the only team in on Claypool, by the way. The Packers also offered a second-rounder, but the Steelers chose the Bears because they believed they’d have a higher selection, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Regardless, when asked what the Bears see in him that the Steelers didn’t, Claypool said, “They see where I can provide them a lot of value. I think they want to utilize that.”
CBS reported the Steelers had been looking to move Claypool for weeks, in part because he was causing issues behind the scenes. Coach Matt Eberflus was confident Claypool would be a good fit based on conversations with former Notre Dame teammates tight end Cole Kmet, center Sam Mustipher and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown.
“Everything was really good, and that’s where you get your information: Guys who have spent time with him,” Eberflus said.
Claypool said he didn’t have “any bad blood with anyone” in Pittsburgh and wasn’t hurt by the Steelers unloading him. He wasn’t hoping to get out, but seemed happy with the move.
He was enthusiastic when asked about playing for a contract extension with the Bears, which will be in play in the upcoming offseason. Claypool’s rookie deal runs through 2023.
In the meantime, he mustshow that he and the Bears really did see something the Steelers missed.