Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Bennie Fowler III signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears on Monday.
The terms haven’t been announced yet, and that’s an important element when determining just how much value Chicago got and for evaluating the signing as a whole. However, assuming that they haven’t thrown an absurd amount of money Fowler’s way (and the one-year deal wound indicate they haven’t), he fits a pair of important needs for the Bears.
Fowler doesn’t replace what was lost when Cameron Meredith was plucked away by the New Orleans Saints. He doesn’t have the sort of upside to indicate that he’s a potential No. 2 wide receiver on the outside (Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 92 receiver in the NFL in 2017), and the Bears will still have to pursue help at the position in the 2018 NFL Draft — potentially early.
But what Fowler does provide is a solid No. 4 or 5 option at wide receiver, and he’s a willing special-teams contributor. That gives him a very clear path to making this roster.
It’s far from guaranteed, but if he can make the roster he can be the unsung sort of addition that helps the Bears transition from rebuilding organization to one that’s arrived. At 26 years old, he can be the sort of player who winds up sticking around for years if he is willing to fill the role of an ancillary receiver and a special teams ace.
Fowler has played in 45 games the last three seasons and is coming off his most productive season as a receiver to date. He played in 51 percent of snaps for the Broncos in 2017, catching 29 passes for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns on 56 targets.
He also proved to be effective at using his frame (6-foot-1 and 217 pounds) in goal-to-go situations, catching 3 of 3 targets inside the 10-yard line for 15 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Depending upon the guarantees in his contract, nothing in that history guarantees him a roster spot. He’ll still have to earn his way in Bourbonnais this summer and continue to prove himself throughout the fall.
That could net him the long-term comfortability that he seeks. Niche roles in an offense like Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s aren’t simply filled, so if Fowler can deliver on what we already assume of him and possibly even a little more, he could be a pleasant surprise.
If he is, that helps erase some of the disappointment surrounding how they chose to go about handling Cameron Meredith’s restricted free agency. If he isn’t, it probably doesn’t damage the Bears either in reality.
Still, making a host of signings in the back half of the roster with the potential to be generally solid like this are how you begin to build towards sustainable success. Fowler won’t be the signing that defines Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace or the franchise as a whole, but consistently hitting on these types of players does a lot to instill confidence.
And if he blows all expectations away, maybe he can help us forget — or even misremember — how badly the Meredith deal was handled.