The Bears are in dire need of help at the wide receiver position. That is both an understatement, and a narrative that has been opined more times than we can count over the past six months. Bears fans know it. Ryan Pace (hopefully) knows it. Heck, even Jordan Howard knows it. The only wide-outs currently under contract are Markus Wheaton (likely going to be cut), Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Tanner Gentry, DeMarcus Ayers, Mekale McKay, and Nelson Spruce. This group consists of (another) free agent bust, a guy coming off an ACL tear, a top-10 pick who has played five career games, and an array of practice squad castoffs.
Going into free agency in two weeks, the Bears need to have a solid plan in place to address the wide receiver position. This means signing multiple players that can improve their arsenal for Mitchell Trubisky. Some of the most talked about options include Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Marqise Lee.
While these are all big names that the Bears must target, they also need secondary options. Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson would be a great second option to add, and could serve as a last-resort WR1 target for the Bears, should the previously mentioned names not make it to the market or desire to sign elsewhere.
2017 Stats: 44 receptions, 703 yards, 6 TD’s
Richardson was non-existent in his first three years in the league. In 2014, he started off well, but tore his ACL in the playoffs. In 2015, Richardson injured his hamstring after notching his first and only catch of the season. In 2016, Richardson didn’t play much of a role for the Seahawks until Tyler Lockett was injured in Week 16. However, Richardson finally broke out in 2017, logging 44 receptions, 703 yards, and six touchdowns.
Richardson has the looks of a solid WR2, and while he may not ever be a WR1, he can still provide a lot of value for the Bears. Ideally, the Bears would double down at wide receiver, pairing a player like Richardson with a WR1 attained in the draft or free agency. Even if the Bears can’t get a WR1, pairing Richardson with Cameron Meredith and hopefully a mix of other players (such as Kendall Wright, Trey Burton) would still substantially improve the Bears’ passing game.
Richardson is not a huge target, being 6’0″, 183 pounds. However, what he lacks in size, he makes up in speed and agility. Richardson ran a 4.40 40-yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine.
Richardson rarely drops balls, something the Bears have consistently struggled with over the past few years. While his route-running isn’t the best, he has the ability to separate from cornerbacks, and has the agility to make defenders miss once he has the ball in his hands.
The Bears need as much receiver help as they can get, and adding Richardson would add a surefire deep threat, something that the Bears sorely lacked last season. The Bears ranked dead last in the league with two completions of 20+ yards of air time. Mitchell Trubisky has a good arm and pinpoint deep accuracy, as seen in many of his throws last season. However, with Bears’ receivers unable to get open or haul the ball in, Trubisky wasn’t able to maximize his skills. Adding Richardson would give Trubisky a target who is slippery enough to get open, has the speed to torch a defense, and has solid hands, as seen in these tough catches against the Lions.
Paul Richardson is a player with excellent potential, but much like Kevin White, has struggled with consistency and injuries. When healthy, Richardson has proven that he can be a game-breaker. However, he is not a WR1, and will need to be paired with someone in order for Chicago to fix their receiving core.
With the wide receiver market already thinning, Richardson could be in for a bigger payday than is warranted. If this is the case, the Bears shouldn’t overpay, as Richardson is relatively unproven, having produced WR2 numbers for just one year. Richardson’s talent is there; however, he comes with a large amount of risk, especially considering his injury history. Richardson’s current market value is hovering around $7 million. If the Bears’ can get him for this much, they should make an effort to sign him.
The Bears should offer Richardson a 3-4 year deal averaging $7 million to $8 million per year, with guarantees for the first year and most of the second year. This would amount to a 3-year, $21 million contract. Additionally, production-based incentives could be added to sweeten the deal for both sides.