Will the Chicago Bears have a running back conundrum on their hands?
After unfortunately losing Tarik Cohen to a torn ACL on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, the Chicago Bears have signed undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce to the 53-man roster. While Pierce is likely meant as a stop-gap, could he potentially put general manager Ryan Pace in an awkward situation?
First, let’s take a step back and look at what Pierce will bring to the table as he attempts to fill in for Cohen. Prior to the start of the season, we identified Pierce as someone the Bears may need to lean on heavily this season. This was primarily because of their perceived lack of depth at the time. Well, that prediction may be starting to come to fruition.
Pierce is filling in for Cohen, but make no mistake, he is not the same type of player. While Cohen is just 5-foot-6 and weighs 191 pounds, Pierce is more solidly built at 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds. The undrafted free agent combined for 1,042 yards (rushing and receiving) with eight touchdowns. last season for Oregon State University. Despite his size he still has really good speed, running the 40-yard dash in the mid 4.4s (ran a 4.47 at Oregon State’s Pro Day).
The Bears are hoping he can fill in admirably, but what if he does more than that? What if he is incredibly impressive and blows away even the most optimistic expectations? Well, then, things might get awkward for Ryan Pace considering he just re-signed Tarik Cohen to a three-year extension worth $5.75 million per year.
Some criticized the decision, saying it was a lot of money considering his role in the Bears offense. Regardless of your opinion of that contract, those criticisms might grow louder if Pierce demonstrates he is more than capable of filling in for Cohen, even though their skillsets might be a little different.
It will underscore the argument that running backs, including gadget backs, are fairly interchangeable. If so, it may further call into question Pace’s decision to allocate those resources to Cohen, with the salary cap potentially being an issue for them next year. Again, putting aside your position on that debate, it seems reasonable that if Pierce impresses, Pace might find himself in a tricky spot having to further justify Cohen’s contract to his critics.