The Chicago Bears have officially waved goodbye to running back David Montgomery after four seasons of housing him in their backfield.
According to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Montgomery is signing a three-year, $18 million contract with the Detroit Lions and will now move to another NFC North backfield where D’Andre Swift will serve as his new running mate. Rapoport also noted Montgomery’s arrival solidifies Jamaal Williams’ departure from Detroit.
“The Lions land one of the top backs on the market. It’s a three-year deal worth $18 million, source said,” Rapoport tweeted on March 14 before adding in a subsequent quote tweet that “the Lions now say goodbye to one of their most fun stories of the year, as Jamaal Williams is now expected to land elsewhere.”
Montgomery played in 60 games over his four seasons in Chicago, starting 51 of them, and rushed for a total of 3,609 yards and 26 touchdowns over that span while adding another 1,240 yards and four touchdowns on 155 receptions for the passing game. He has been a do-it-all workhorse for the Bears’ most recent iterations of their offense, even demonstrating a reliable ability as a pass-blocker when tasked with the duty.
Now, the Lions will hope Montgomery can translate his skill to Detroit and help them raise the bar on their rushing offense, which ranked 11th-best in the league in 2022.
Ryan Poles Stressed Value With David Montgomery
Bears general manager Ryan Poles had said multiple times over the past few months that he would like to keep Montgomery in the fold for their 2023 offense.
“I’ve always wanted to keep David,” Poles said during January 10’s end-of-year press conference. “I love his mentality, how he plays the game. I told him that to his face. He’s part of the identity that we had this year that kept us competitive. The second part of that is just the contract situation. That’s something that we’ll see how that goes and if we can find common ground. Obviously, I’ve learned that you can want a player, and the value’s got to come together for it to happen.”
While Montgomery’s reported average annual value with the Lions seems relatively low at about $6 million, Poles clearly had a different idea of what worked for the Bears’ backfield next season. It could be the guarantees Montgomery wanted in his deal. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Montgomery will be getting $11 million guaranteed from the Lions over the next three seasons, so it is possible that Poles preferred not to offer such guarantees to a running back with other needs to address.
There is also the fact that the Bears have a quality running back in Khalil Herbert returning to their roster for next season with two more years left on his rookie contract. Herbert averaged an impressive 5.7 yards on 129 carries in 2022 with 731 yards and four touchdowns over just 13 games. There were moments before his midseason injury where he seems like he could bump Montgomery out of the lead-back role, and a full offseason to rest and recover should make him a worthy option for that job in 2023 even though the Bears could stand to get better blocking out of him moving forward.
Then again, with respect to Montgomery, maybe Poles has a bigger fish in mind.