Bears position outlook: Receivers

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
8:00
AM ET
2014 free agents: None.

The good: On the way to making it to the Pro Bowl, receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall racked up 1,421 and 1,295 yards, respectively, to finish sixth and 11th in the NFL in receiving yardage. Their combined 2,716 yards ranked as the second most of any receiver duo in the NFL, behind only Denver’s Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (2,718). Marshall and Jeffery’s combined yardage total represents the most by a duo in Bears franchise history. When teams focused on Marshall, Jeffery often took advantage of single coverage, which helped him to become the only receiver in Bears history to produce two 200-yard receiving games in a season. That production moving forward will likely change the way teams defend Marshall and Jeffery.

The bad: Because of all the weaponry at the offense’s disposal, the Bears weren’t able to utilize much of the receiving corps outside of Marshall and Jeffery. Running back Matt Forte finished third in receptions (74), with tight end Martellus Bennett right behind with 65 grabs. So as difficult as it may be moving forward, the Bears would probably like to get their No. 3 and No.4 receivers more involved. No. 3 receiver Earl Bennett played in 15 games, but finished with a 243 yards receiving, his lowest total since 2009. Rookie Marquess Wilson played the No. 4 role, but caught just two balls for 13 yards as he was inactive or didn’t play in six contests.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Marshall ($9.3 million), Earl Bennett ($2.45 million), Eric Weems ($1.6 million), Jeffery ($1,240,317), Wilson ($506,787), Chris Williams ($495,000), Terrence Toliver ($420,000).

Draft priority: Low. The Bears appear to be set going into 2014 with the receivers currently on the roster. But they might consider trying to extend Marshall prior to the season to try to lower his cap figure and prevent him from hitting free agency. Bennett took a pay cut in 2013, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the club asked him to take another going into the season. If Williams makes it to training camp, he could challenge for one of the auxiliary receiving spots as well as the job of primary return man.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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