One of the few mainstays the Bears have left is leaving. Running back David Montgomery agreed to a three-year, $18 million deal with the Lions on Tuesday, NFL Network reports.
Former general manager Ryan Pace drafted Montgomery in third innings in 2019, and he rushed for 3,609 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons. He also caught 155 passes for 1,240 yards and four touchdowns.
In 61 games, including the playoffs, he rushed for 100 yards eight times. He had 24 games for less than 50 yards.
As much as general manager Ryan Poles champions Montgomery, 25, as the type of player and person he wants to be, there's little chance the Bears will pay that much for a running back. They will move forward with Khalil Herbert, who still has a cheap rookie contract for two more seasons, and an affordable addition in free agency or draft.
“I always wanted to keep David,” said Poles at the end of the season. “I like his mentality, how he plays the game… He is part of the identity we have this year that keeps us competitive.
“The second part of it is the contractual situation… I've learned that you can want a player, (but) the values have to come together for that to happen.”
While Montgomery's overall production has been unspectacular, he is by far the team's best pass blocker at the position.
The Lions, however, gambled that Montgomery's numbers were hindered by the Bears' gratuitous foul play under former coach Matt Nagy and their various offensive line errors.
Herbert, meanwhile, showed promise as an electric runner in his first two seasons. He broke last season with 731 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He led all running backs at 5.7 yards per carry.
The Bears also have Trestan Ebner and Darrynton Evans on the roster, although neither proved themselves last season.
Many recognizable running backs remain available in free agency, including Kareem Hunt of the Browns, Miles Sanders of the Eagles, and Jamaal Williams of the Lions. Charger running back Austin Ekeler, who totaled 1,826 yards of offense and scored 25 touchdowns over the past two seasons, has been cleared for a trade amid stalled contract talks.
In all likelihood, though, the Bears will look to the draft. They have 10 choices, including six in the fourth round or later. With running backs rarely considered a premium position, it's their most cost-effective way to replace Montgomery.