The Bears are finally bringing in some proven wide receiver help for quarterback Justin Fields.
They acquired Steelers standout Chase Claypool for a second-round pick hours before the 3 p.m. trade deadline Tuesday. The Bears are trading their second-rounder, not the one they acquired from the Ravens on the same day for Roquan Smith.
“I thought it was important to add another impact player for our offense to go along with the guys that we currently have in the receivers room right now,” general manager Ryan Poles said Tuesday afternoon. “I like the way Justin is trending, and I think adding another big body who’s physical, explosive, great leaping ability, can stretch the field —but also is violent with the ball in his hand as well as a blocker, I think that enhances everyone around him.”
Claypool fell out of favor with the Steelers after they drafted him in the second round out of Notre Dame in 2020, but should provide an instant boost to the Bears. He has 32 catches for 311 yards and a touchdown this season. Darnell Mooney is the Bears’ leading receiver at 364 yards, but no one else has more than 165.
Claypool, 24, was a force in his first two seasons: In 31 games, he caught 121 passes for 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns, plus he ran 24 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Poles said last offseason that he wanted to give Fields help at receiver, then did so on the cheap, signing Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis to one-year deals and trading a future seventh-round pick to the Patriots for N’Keal Harry in July. Claypool represents by far his biggest investment at the position, and at just the right time — the Bears believe that their pass game is beginning to make steady improvements to go with the league’s best rushing attack.
“As a quarterback— and you all know where I come from, you can never have enough weapons and guys that help your quarterback gain confidence,” Poles said, referencing the Chiefs, “I know a lot of the guys are starting to make plays for us. Adding another receiver is going to allow him to continue to grow and gain that confidence.”
Claypool has 1 1⁄2 years left on his contract. Given the trade capital the Bears gave up, they could look to extend his deal this offseason. That might make more sense for the Bears than trying to sign free agents from an underwhelming class in March.
Poles admitted the weak class played a part in him giving up a prime draft pick for Claypool.
“That’s part of my job— and part of my crew upstairs— is, you have to do a little bit of forecasting and looking down the road,” he said. “I just didn’t feel completely comfortable with that. Not to say that there’s not good players there. I just didn’t feel comfortable with not maybe being a little bit more aggressive at this point.”
With Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett throwing him the ball this year, Claypool has been the league’s No. 82 receiver, per Pro Football Focus. His and speed will be unique in the Bears’ locker room.
At 6-4, 238 pounds, Claypool has reached the seventh-fastest speed in a game this season, running 21.46 miles per hour on a 12-yard carry in Week 1. That’s faster than any Bears player, though Fields is ranked 10th.
Since 2020, Claypool has ranks fifth in the league in both routes run and targets on go routes. He’s caught 20 balls on go balls, which ranks eighth, and ranks in the top 20 in receiving yards and touchdowns on such plays.
The Bears have been the biggest player at the trade deadline this year, dealing defensive end Robert Quinn to the Eagles and Smith to the Ravens.