Chicago Bears: Keep watching these rising 2021 free agents

Chicago Bears (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bears, Kalen Ballage
Chicago Bears (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

3. Running Back Kalen Ballage

There is a saying in today’s NFL that, when a player escapes Adam Gase as their head coach, they break out. That may not yet be the case for running back Kalen Ballage, but he’s on his way to proving that at just 24 years old, he deserves a significant role in an NFL offense.

After a couple of years in Miami, Ballage was signed to the New York Jets this year, under the familiar Gase of course. The Jets let him go, and the Los Angeles Chargers picked him up after being cut thin at running back.

The last three weeks seen Ballage provide a bright spot to the offense. While rookie Joshua Kelly continues to struggle in finding his role, and Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson remain out due to injury, it’s been the Ballage show.

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In three games with the Chargers, Ballage has 63 total touches for 257 yards from scrimmage and a score. That’s impressive, considering he’s been plugged in without much practice time. Learning the offense on the fly, Ballage has done more than what was expected of him.

He’s a true do-it-all back who can catch the football or run between the tackles. While it’s sometimes tough to see what he’s truly capable of due to running behind some poor offensive lines, Ballage has shown flashes of being a solid RB2 and continues to do enough as the fill-in starter with Los Angeles.

Because running backs rarely get paid big money, the Bears would be wise to take a flier on Ballage next offseason. Adding him to the mix with David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen would give Chicago three experienced backs who could all touch the ball on different occasions.