The Chicago Bears have made many moves at the wide receiver position this offseason. They lost Alshon Jeffery to free agency and cut Eddie Royal. They added a lot, which includes Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. Cameron Meredith and Kevin White will be the top two returning.
At first glance, this list makes me uneasy, but there is some skill, dare I say, depth there. It will be interesting to see how the new quarterbacks: Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky mesh with the new and returning wideouts.
I’m going to dive into each player and examine how they fit in with the Bears and how they can have a positive impact on the team in 2017.
First and foremost, there shouldn’t be ANY expectations for Kevin White in 2017. He has been injured for the last two seasons and looks like a wasted first round draft pick at this point. It would be a successful season for White if he played in all 16 games.
When he was on the field for a short amount of time in 2016, he did have an impact. He was targeted 36 times in just four games. According to Pro Football Focus, that was good enough for 15th best in the NFL. That’s impressive considering his inexperience. The hope is White can find the speed that made him almost unstoppable at the University of West Virginia. He showed flashes of his unique skill-set, including this unbelievable catch he made against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Bears cannot rely on White for the 2017 season. His track record so far in the NFL tells us that much. However, if he can stay on the field, White should have a large impact on how good the team is on the offensive side of the ball.
Injuries allowed Cam Meredith to get his chance in the NFL in 2016. It’s safe to say he made the most of it. In 14 games, Meredith caught 66 balls for 888 yards and four touchdowns. People forget that he is still young at just 24-years-old. Gaining experience was huge for the development of Meredith. One could he even argue that he is more valuable than Kevin White at this point in time.
Similar to Alshon Jeffery, Meredith is tall and lengthy. That makes him a massive target down field. He also surprises people with his speed and explosiveness. His football IQ is through the roof, as it should be considering he was a quarterback in college.
There should be a lot of excitement surrounding Meredith for the 2017 season. If he is able to stay on the field, 2017 should be a big year for the former undrafted free agent.
It was a surprise to many when the Bears decided to sign Rueben Randle in early January. Randle is a former second-round draft pick by the New York Giants. During his tenure in New York, Randle appeared in 64 games, starting 33 of them. In those games, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles last preseason but was cut before the start of the regular season. If there is one positive about Randle it’s that he’s fresh. He went to LSU, there he had 97 receptions for 1,634 yards and 13 touchdowns. He did declare for the draft after his junior year.
Randle is also one of those players that the Bears cannot rely on too heavily for 2017. There is talent there, but his ability to grasp and understand an NFL offense is concerning. Randle will have to work hard to make the team out of training camp.
The signing of Kendall Wright was probably the Bears best move in free agency for the offense. Wright, 27, has been with Tennessee Titans for all five of his years in the NFL. In those five years, Wright had 280 receptions for 3,244 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The most intriguing part of the Wright signing was his experience with Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. In 2013, Loggains was the offensive coordinator. That same season was the best of Wright’s career. He caught 94 balls for 1,079 yards.
Wright is 5’10”, 191 pounds, so most of his time will come in the slot. The Bears haven’t had a healthy slot receiver since Earl Bennett. If Wright’s on the field, he will get a boatload of targets and is in line for a big 2017 season.
The Bears had to make up for the loss of Alshon Jeffery and Markus Wheaton was one of those ways the front office will try to do it in 2017. Wheaton was a nice player for a couple seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season, he suffered a foot injury that kept him out for the year.
While on the field in 2015, Wheaton recorded 44 receptions for 749 yards and five touchdowns. He is known for his speed and big play ability. He has a chance to be a legitimate deep ball threat for the Bears in 2017. That is something that they lost when Jeffery chose to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.
If Wheaton can stay healthy, he will be a valuable part of the Bears offense in 2017.
The most recent signing the Bears made in the wide receiver department was agreeing to a deal with former New York Giant and Super Bowl Champion, Victor Cruz. There is no question that his best seasons are behind him, but Cruz will be a nice veteran presence in a room full of young and for the most part, unproven players.
Again, the issue with Cruz is his ability to stay on the field. That seems to be a recurring theme for not only the Bears as a team, but for this group of wide receivers as well. Last season in 15 games, Cruz caught 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown.
Cruz has proven time and time again that if he is healthy and on the field, he will produce. Last season, for some unknown reason, his snap count was very low. Cruz claims the Giants did this on purpose so he would be easier to cut. Whatever the case may be, Cruz will see a lot of time on the field in 2017 for the Bears.