To say the Bears dramatically remade their roster this offseason is an understatement. Nearly every part of the team looks different than it did in 2022, and that’s probably a good thing, because the Bears had the league’s worst record last season.
Normally, a team that bottoms out as hard as the Bears did would relish the opportunity to pick first overall, but the Bears, committed as they are to quarterback Justin Fields, decided instead to trade the first overall pick for a king’s ransom, flipping the selection to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a laundry list of assets, one of which was wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Moore’s inclusion is an interesting facet of the deal, both as it pertains to the trade that sent him to the Bears and because of his connection to the Packers. The Bears seem to have gotten Moore as a nice add on to the deal, which is noteworthy because the Packers had reportedly offered the Panthers a first-round pick for Moore at the 2022 trade deadline.
Whether or not trading a first for Moore would have been a good idea is an interesting hypothetical, but trade value notwithstanding, he seems like he would have been a great complement to Christian Watson. Now, however, the Packers will face him twice a year for the foreseeable future. How will he fit in with the Bears?
What does D.J. Moore do well?
Since he entered the league as a first-round pick in 2018, Moore’s game has largely been characterized by two things: his work as a deep threat and generating yards after the catch.
A thickly built, explosive athlete, Moore has always been adept at getting down the field and making the most of his opportunities once he gets there. According to Pro Football Focus, Moore has posted an average depth of target of at least 10.8 yards in four of his five pro seasons. In 2022, his ADOT was a career-high 14 yards. He caught 14 passes more than 20 yards downfield last season, scoring four of his seven touchdowns on such plays.
His yards after the catch took a corresponding dip in 2022, but that’s understandable; it’s harder to generate YAC on deep balls. But in 2021, he averaged 4.8 yards after the catch, good for 11th in the league among receivers with at least 90 targets. In 2020, he ranked second, and in 2019 he was 15th.
Moore produces both from the slot and split wide, but you should look for him to line up primarily outside if his time in Carolina is a guide. He played 279 snaps in the slot in 2022, a career-high, but only broke 200 snaps in the slot one other time over his five seasons with the Panthers.
How does Moore fit with the Bears?
All of this seems like a package specifically designed to help Justin Fields. It’s not Packers homerism to say that Fields has not been a polished passer at the NFL level. By traditional and advanced metrics alike, he has been inefficient, ineffective, and unproductive. True, he’s been more than effective as a runner, but being an elite runner as a quarterback isn’t enough to make up for your shortcomings as a passer when your shortcomings are as extensive as what we’ve seen from Fields through two seasons.
You can hope to reverse that ineffectiveness in two ways: either by helping Fields improve as a thrower or by adding better players around him. It’s possible Fields could still get better at the raw fundamentals of passing, but the Bears have opted for a quicker approach. By adding Moore (and others), they can get a real look at what Fields can do this year before having to do things like decide on his fifth-year option or, perhaps more importantly, putting the rest of the draft assets they required from the Panthers into play. After all, if Fields doesn’t get better, the players you acquired to help him would still be capable of helping whoever succeeds him.
In any case, Moore seems to help Fields in two obvious ways. Adding a high-YAC player like Moore is an easy way to gin up some passing efficiency. Just look at what Deebo Samuel and company have done for the 49ers. If Fields can simply get Moore the ball on time and on target, Moore can do quite a bit of the rest of the work himself.
But Moore may also help Fields improve his deep passing. Accuracy may still be an issue, but it seems like just having someone — anyone — to throw to down the field could help Fields shore up some of his problems there. In 2022, Fields completed just 18 of 51 passes targeted 20 yards down the field or more, a rate of just 35.3%. Anything is possible, but it’s hard to imagine him being worse than that with Moore on the field.
If nothing else, Moore should help the Bears answer some questions about their quarterback, and if he can definitively show Chicago what they have in Fields, he’s probably already been worth it.