Who could Bears extend next? DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and more looming decisions (2024)

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles is stepping into “good problems to have” territory.

Blue-chip players command lucrative contracts; the Bears now have several who fall into that category. There are still a lot of ifs that come with keeping a nucleus together, but if this current Bears team is on the ascent, and if the foundation is there for Caleb Williams and company to win consistently, there will be some big financial calls to make.

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“Just like I talked about with the hard times and having to make those decisions, I think those decisions will continue to come with success,” Poles told The Athletic in March. “You get to a point where a quarterback starts taking up a lot of cap space, or you have a better team that does, you can’t keep everybody. And that’s the tough thing about it.”

For now, the Bears still have a healthy cap situation and haven’t been pressed to let top-end players hit free agency. Poles has delivered three big-time contract extensions: defensive end Montez Sweat, tight end Cole Kmet, and most recently, cornerback Jaylon Johnson. As long as Williams is on his rookie contract, there’s going to be flexibility to extend the team’s best players.

Threading the needle 🪡 pic.twitter.com/tTuE8cCGc1

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 6, 2024

Part of inheriting a roster without a great young core is having only three major extensions on the résumé. With Roquan Smith and Justin Fields traded, only one player from ex-GM Ryan Pace’s time could get a new deal from Poles: guard Teven Jenkins.

Precedent is important. It’s something Poles referenced last summer after the Kmet deal got done.

“We have a process,” he said. “We have an analysis we do. It’s in-depth. It’s pages and pages, so that we stay disciplined in how we approach it. Because you want to treat that the same way, whether you have a ton of cap space or a little cap space… The way that you do things, for one, is going to be held against you and it’s going to be a precedent for how you do things with everything else.”

As 2024 training camp approaches, there isn’t a player like Kmet who would be an obvious candidate for a new contract this summer, but Poles’ list of looming financial decisions is a lot longer than it was the last two years. The situation could soon be much like what it was for his predecessor, when every summer brought a new extension or two. Here’s a look at the players who could be getting new contracts a year from now.

2025 free agents

WR Keenan Allen

Even without a full season of Justin Herbert, Allen had 1,243 receiving yards in his age-31 season in 2023. Still, is that enough for the Bears to splurge before seeing him in a game?

“I think down the road,” Poles said in March about an extension for Allen. “I try to be intentional with the order that we do extensions, so we’ll review that and kind of see what our order looks like. But for what he stands for, I would love to have him long term.”

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Allen expects to play on an expiring contract, and he said last month, “I’m going to play as long as I can. As far as an extension, I’m going to let the play speak for itself, and if they offer me something that I like, we’ll go from there.”

He also spoke to the media shortly after Justin Jefferson’s new contract with the Vikings.

“That’s the goal right now is to go out and do what I always do and just try to remain who I am,” he said. “And the market just got reset, so…”

Only seven times in the past decade has a receiver 32 years or older gone over 1,000 yards in a season, and three of those years came from Larry Fitzgerald. Allen has proven throughout his career that he’s perfectly capable of it, as long as he stays healthy. The Bears will want to see durability, production, his rapport with Williams, as well the progress of rookie Rome Odunze and second-year wideout Tyler Scott.

.@Keenan13Allen on the offense: “We can be really special.” pic.twitter.com/oq9SSJ69Qr

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 16, 2024

In March 2023, Adam Thielen got a three-year deal worth $25 million from the Panthers. He was 32, and went on to put up 1,014 yards in a bad offense. Another comp: 31-year-old DeAndre Hopkins got a two-year, $26 million contract from the Titans in 2023. But the Bears have other receivers, including one who is also due big money; that could limit how much they’d be willing to commit to Allen.

A one- or two-year deal would make sense, if he is close enough to the Allen the league has seen since 2013. And based on his early impressions, Allen would welcome the prospect of spending a few years in Chicago.

“As far as I’ve been here, it’s been nothing but love,” he said. “It’s been beautiful. The golf is amazing, which I love to do. And the guys are amazing in the locker room as well. So it wouldn’t be hard to adjust to a city like this.”

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OL Teven Jenkins

Had Jenkins put together a full season in 2023, this would probably be done. Or, he’d be the favorite to get a new deal during camp, like Kmet received last season.

Instead, Jenkins said his representation reached out about a new contract, “but nothing is on the table.”

Jenkins played in 12 games with 11 starts last season. He started 11 games in 2022 as well, after only two starts as a rookie following back surgery. He’s fully aware of the top priority for his contract year.

“Stay healthy,” he said during minicamp. “That’s number one and of the utmost importance for me right now. Stay healthy, get through the whole 17 games and continue my strong play from last year, and be a more consistent, reliable guy.”

Thanks to the rookie wage scale, Jenkins is an absolute bargain in 2024, counting only $2.668 million against the cap. Since moving to guard he’s played at a high level — when healthy. The awkwardness of training camp in 2022, when Jenkins seemed like a trade candidate, is in the past. He could be a stalwart up front, but starting 22 of a possible 34 games over the past two seasons is the hindrance.

Two agents, both granted anonymity for their assessment of Jenkins because he isn’t their client, said Jenkins could garner a contract in the $20 million per year range next year — if he plays well and stays healthy. Right now, a contract would still be in the teens (as far as millions per year), both said, because Jenkins has missed a lot of time.

The question for Poles: How much does he need to see from Jenkins? Injuries can be fickle and hard to predict. Would a full season, or even 15 games, ease that concern? Would the Bears prefer a contract with a lot of protections? Right now, Darnell Wright is the closest thing to a long-term “sure thing” on the O-line. They’d love to count Jenkins in that category, too.

GO DEEPERBears 53-man roster projection: Few spots up for grabs on deeper, better team

Contracts running through 2025

WR DJ Moore

Go back to Poles’ quote about being “intentional” with the order of extensions. Who would make more sense at the front of the line than Moore?

He put up a career year in 2023, even though the Bears were 27th in the league in passing. There’s a reason he was the main character in the team’s schedule release video — he’s quickly become “the guy” in town. He’s not going to be loud about it like many of his counterparts at the position, but Moore’s on-field performance does enough talking.

Moore in Manchester 🇬🇧 @idjmoore spent some time helping out at a UK Mini Monsters clinic

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 24, 2024

Entering 2024, Moore’s contract ranks 17th among receivers based on average salary. That would move to 18th if Ja’Marr Chase gets a deal done in Cincinnati. The Bears won’t want someone like Moore, whose work ethic Matt Eberflus has lauded, to get to his contract year.

Moore is only 27. All he does is produce. Williams could turn out to be the best quarterback he’s played with, so there’s a chance his production will only get better. It’s not a necessity this summer, but it would be an example to the rest of the locker room of the kind of player the organization will reward.

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Both of the aforementioned agents — neither represents Moore — estimated $30 million per year on an extension. One agent used Calvin Ridley’s four-year, $92 million as a comparison if the Bears chose to add two years and $60 million to Moore’s current deal, while noting that Moore is younger and more productive than Ridley.

LB T.J. Edwards

On a slightly lesser scale, a lot of the things you can say about Moore can also be said about Edwards. The hometown linebacker could’ve made the Pro Bowl last year — of the top 10 tacklers in the league, Edwards was tied for third in sacks (2.5), tied for fourth in tackles for loss (eight), second in QB hits (eight), tied for first in interceptions (three), and tied for second in passes defensed (seven).

What a grab by @TJEdwards8 👀

📺: #ATLvsCHI on CBS pic.twitter.com/ITOmnJkS7E

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 31, 2023

Like Moore, his deal runs through 2025. Edwards turns 28 in August at a position known for its longevity. He was the team’s Brian Piccolo Award winner, a sign of what he’s meant inside Halas Hall. At $6.5 million per year, Edwards is tied for 22nd among off-ball linebackers.

The Bears are already paying Tremaine Edmunds a lot of money at a position that doesn’t usually warrant major spending, but Edwards could continue to put up numbers as the weak-side linebacker in a scheme that features the ‘Will’ ‘backer. There’s no urgency here, but Edwards certainly merits a pay raise based on his 2023 performance.

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2022 draft picks

CB Kyler Gordon

We’ve now reached the players who aren’t eligible for contract extensions until after the 2024 season — we’ll be talking about them next winter, spring and summer after their Year 3 campaigns.

Gordon’s goal for 2024 is Pro Bowl his position coach, David Overstreet II, said, and based on what we saw from “Spiderman” last season, that’s attainable. Gordon had six passes defensed and two interceptions. He established himself as one of the league’s better nickel corners. Another strong season — and a healthy one, too — and Poles’ first draft pick as GM could be an easy extension candidate in 2025.

S Jaquan Brisker

Brisker has missed two games in each of his first two NFL seasons, but it sometimes seems like more because of his presence on the injury report, or having to come out of games — even if it’s for only a play.

Improved durability should be a focus for Brisker in Year 3, as well as consistent playmaking. He had nine splash plays in his first nine games last season, but finished with 12 splash plays in the final six games.

.@JaquanBrisker's always bringing the juice 🔋

— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 20, 2024

Brisker could benefit from Kevin Byard playing alongside him, and he would really get a boost from a better pass rush. Brisker has been a vocal leader since joining the team. Without any young safeties behind him who would take over if the Bears moved on, he’s in prime position for a new deal ahead of 2025 — if he continues to play well.

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LT Braxton Jones

If Jones puts together a full season — he missed six games in 2023 after playing every snap as a rookie — and can get to a Pro Bowl level of play, he could be in line for a massive contract. Left tackles make big money.

If Jones struggles, or misses time, the Bears have an option in third-round rookie Kiran Amegadjie, who could eventually take over.

A fifth-round pick at a premium position, Jones has one of the league’s most valuable contracts, as long as he does a serviceable job protecting Williams and avoiding penalties. It would be a great story if the Southern Utah product earned a new deal after 2024, but with Wright on the futures list of contracts, and if Amegadjie proves ready to go, the Bears could move to Amegadjie in 2026 and let Jones walk. If both players prove to be long-term options at left tackle, then Poles has options — a good problem to have.

(Top photo: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images)

Who could Bears extend next? DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and more looming decisions (2024)
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