D'Andre Swift's impact on the Chicago Bears may be similar to former fan favorite

Some experts are not high of the Chicago Bears signing free agent running back D'Andre Swift.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

When the start of NFL Free Agency opened in March, the Chicago Bears became the first team to announce their signing within a minute of the start of free agency by announcing the signing of running back D'Andre Swift. He signed a 3-year, $24 million contract with $15.3 million guaranteed.

His signing certainly raised an eyebrow around the league. ESPN's Seth Walder gave the signing a C- grade, questioning why the Bears jumped the market to sign Swift.

Also, Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus was not high on the signing, wondering if the Bears ignored the warning signs of Swift's availability.

While many experts have their reasons to cast their doubts over the signing of Swift, there are reasons to be optimistic about the deal and that Swift could have a similar impact on the Bears to what Thomas Jones had.

Jones was a seventh overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2000 NFL Draft, the same draft in which the Bears chose Brian Urlacher two picks later. After a stellar career at the University of Virginia, he struggled to stay healthy as he rushed for only 1,264 yards and scored 9 touchdowns in three years with them before getting traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. He gained 627 yards and scored 3 touchdowns in his only season there before cashing in on free agency with the Bears.

Swift was taken by the Detroit Lions 35th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. And like Jones, his first three years with the Lions were similar in terms of usage and questions about whether he is an injury prone player persisted. He gained 1,680 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in his first three years with the Lions before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2023. He is coming off a career-high 1,049 yards and scored 5 touchdowns last season before he cashed in by signing with the Bears this off-season.

The signing of D'Andre Swift is reminiscent of when the Bears signed running back Thomas Jones two decades ago.

The circumstances involving both Swift and Jones are strikingly similar. Coincidence? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But you also must consider the state the Bears were in when both joined the organization.

When Jones joined the Bears, Lovie Smith was named the Bears head coach. However, in his first season with the Bears, they were only 5-11 in 2004. Smith fired offensive coordinator Terry Shea after just one season and replaced him with Ron Turner. He installed a zone-blocking scheme that utilized Jones' speed and ability to make quick decisions.

The next season, he had 1,335 yards and scored 9 touchdowns, both career highs at the time. In 2006, he had 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns despite having to share carries with Cedric Benson, who they took fifth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. The 2005-06 Bears were fun to watch and gave the Bears fans hope. And, there is no doubt Jones played a huge part in their successful two-year run.

If you take out the 2022 season, where the Bears were in total rebuilding mode and finished a franchise-worst 3-14 season, then you can argue that the 2023 season was indeed his first season as the head coach for Matt Eberflus.

He was coming off a 7-10 campaign last season. Where he drew heavy criticism for blowing leads in three games late in the fourth quarter and the offense that was disjointed and never able to find any consistency all season, Eberflus fired embattled offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and almost the entire offensive staff. They replaced him with former Seattle Seahawks' offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.

They have totally revamped their entire offensive personnel this off-season to tailor to Waldron's system. Swift's signing was followed by the addition of tight end Gerald Everett, who played for Waldron with the Los Angeles Rams, traded for Keenan Allen, and drafted Rome Odunze in this year's draft. But of course, the biggest addition this off-season is drafting quarterback Caleb Williams replacing former starting quarterback Justin Fields. Swift could see his numbers go up significantly in Waldron's system.

In Smith's second year, the Bears reverse their record from 5-11 to 11-5 in 2005. There is no reason to believe that Eberflus and the Bears can go from 7-10 to at least 10-7 in 2024.

Thomas Jones played a huge role in their successful, albeit, brief, two-year run because not only was he given a chance to prove himself in the right scheme, but the team was also ascending at the right time. And much like Jones, Swift could have a similar impact on a team that is also ready to take a significant step this upcoming season.