Chicago Bears Free Agency Sign or Pass: Keelan Cole
Keelan Cole has been an up and down splash player for the Jacksonville Jaguars the past four years. In his rookie season, he put up 748 receiving yards, setting the bar high. However, in 2018 he had just 491 and 361 the following season. Cole did go out on a high note, though, and enters NFL free agency off of 642 yards, but a career-high in targets and receptions. Would Cole be a nice addition to the Chicago Bears, or should they look to other directions for receiver help?
Projected Contract for Keelan Cole in NFL free agency
Last season Cole played for $3.2 million but was valued at $6.9 million by over the cap. This is not too high for Cole either, as PFF has him projected to see something like a two-year, $11 million deal which would be at $5.5 million per year.
So, when considering signing Keelan Cole, you have to account for the idea that he will be looking at somewhere in the range of $5.5-$7 million per year. Would you be interested in signing him at that cost?
Chicago Bears should sign Keelan Cole in free agency
For his career, Keelan Cole averages 14.1 yards per reception and 4.4 yards after the catch per reception per PFF. For comparison, Anthony Miller is at 11 yards per catch, with 4 coming after the catch. That is an obvious upgrade.
Cole has been stranded in Jacksonville. Allen Robinson can tell him first hand that even with bad quarterback play in Chicago, it is still better than what he had been playing with recently. There is still upside that can be untapped, and Cole is a player flying under the radar. His contested-catch numbers are impressive, and while he is not an elite receiver, he would add a huge splash player and give the depth a jolt that they need.
Chicago Bears should pass on Keelan Cole in free agency
Fans get annoyed with Anthony Miller in drops, but he had a 5% rate last season. That is higher than Cole, who dropped 7% of his passes last season. That is the issue for Cole, who does haul in contested balls, but also struggles with hauling in your every day pass. This has set Cole back in his down years as well.
The reason I keep comparing him to Miller is that he took the majority of his snaps from the slot in 2020. In 2017-19 he was an outside receiver but struggled. He took his biggest step forward in the slot.
This is where we go back to salary. Cole has been more productive but has many blunders as Miller. Still, Miller will be on the cap for $1.7 million in 2020. At $5.5 million Cole would need to be a clear upgrade, and he is not quite that. They could offer him a lower end contract, and if he does not have a market, he could catch on. Still, he is more of a third/fourth who can add to Miller, rather than upgrade from Miller.