The Chicago Bears today place a qualifying tender on restricted free agent running back Kahlil Bell. The offer is worth $1.26 million. It's the lowest tender a team can place on a UFA. The club can match any offer Bell receives from another NFL team but will not receiving draft pick compensation if he chooses to sign elsewhere.
For about $700,000 more, the Bears could have given Bell a second-round tender, which would have forced any other team to give Chicago a second-round pick as compensation for signing Bell. Yet the team appears ready to let him test the market.
Bell definitely earned this pay raise. The three-year veteran carried 79 times last year for 337 yards (4.3 avg.). He made two starts to end the season, after injuries to both Matt Forte and Marion Barber. His best game came in week 15, when he rushed for 121 yards – a career high. Bell also demonstrated good quickness and field vision, and an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
RB Kahlil Bell
Jerry Lai/US Presswire
The only knock on Bell was his penchant for fumbles. He put the ball on the ground three times in his two starts.
Tendering Bell likely means Barber's time in the Windy City is up. He served the team well as a short-yardage back, scoring six rushing touchdowns in 2011, the most on the team. Yet injuries held him out of five games. The icing on the cake may have been the Week 13 matchup against the Broncos, where Barber's two huge gaffes late in the contest cost Chicago the win.
According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Barber has told folks in Chicago that he does not expect to return. He also reportedly move out of his Chicago-area apartment. He's due $1.9 million in base salary next year, with no bonuses. If cut, he'd cost the team about $250,000 in dead money.
As for Bell, the club has been trying this offseason to sign him to a two-year deal with $500,000 guaranteed, yet haven't been able to finalize anything. Bell obviously thinks he's worth more and will now have the opportunity to find out exactly what his value is around the league.
If Bell can't find a better deal, it's likely the two sides will continue to work on a longer-term contract.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.