The window for NFL teams to begin franchise tagging players has officially opened, and so it’s time to finally see which upcoming free agents will actually hit the market. Bears fans will wait expectantly for news regarding players like Orlando Brown Jr. In some cases free agency dreams have already been dashed, like when reports emerged that the Commanders are planning to tag defensive tackle Daron Payne. But Saquon Barkley stands alone as a player who’s future remains a mystery, and as a player who generates debate about whether or not he’s worth a major investment.
For what it’s worth, PointsBet believes there’s a decent chance Barkley ends up with the Bears. The sportsbook lists odds for where Barkley will take his next snap, and the Bears are tied for the third-shortest odds at +600.
The +600 odds mean a $100 bet would result in $600 in winnings, resulting in a $700 total payout.
It makes sense that PointsBet oddsmakers believe the Bears would be interested in Barkley. Luke Getsy’s offense is predicated on running the ball well in their outside zone scheme, and the Bears finished second in the league with 558 rushing attempts in 2022. Meanwhile, Barkley proved he’s still one of the best rushers in the NFL. He finished fourth in total rushing yards (1,312), ninth in rushing TDs (10) and tied for third in 20+ yard rushes (nine). What made Barkley’s season all the more impressive was that he did it with opposing defenses focusing on him. That led to Barkley earning an impressive 173 rushing yards over expected, per NFL’s Next Gen Stats. That was sixth-most in the NFL.
That said, spending big on free agent running backs isn’t en vogue in the NFL. For the most part, GMs tend to spend big on “premium” positions like quarterback, pass rusher, wide receiver, left tackle and cornerback. The NFL has become a passing league, and so GMs put their dollars towards improving their own passing games and disrupting their opponents’. Running backs are traditionally thought of as even more replaceable in zone running schemes, which is what the Bears deploy. Whether it’s fair or not, detractors will also point to Barkley’s lengthy injury history as a reason why he’s a risky investment. Numerous injuries, including an ACL tear in 2020, kept Barkley out of 21 games from 2019-2021. However, Barkley didn’t miss any games due to injury last year. He sat out Week 18, but only because the Giants had already been locked into the No. 6 playoff seed and head coach Brian Daboll opted to keep him out of harm’s way in a meaningless game.
The negotiating period for NFL free agents begins Mar. 13. Teams can officially sign free agents on Mar. 15 at 3 p.m.
Odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.
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