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Bears secure RB Tarik Cohen on 3-year contract extension

It took the Bears more than eight months to get moving on long-term deals, but there was a spark of urgency this week as tension rose in the building.

Early in his fourth season, Cohen already has 2,608 yards of total offense in his career.

The Bears are suddenly hurrying to secure contract extensions for key offensive players after seemingly no movement toward doing so the last eight months.

They signed running back Tarik Cohen to a three-year, $17.3 million deal to keep him on the team through 2023, the team confirmed Sunday. The deal includes $9.53 million guaranteed and can be worth as much as $18.25 million, sources confirmed. ESPN first reported the deal.

“We’re extremely excited about being able to extend Tarik,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in a statement. “He’s a versatile player that has a big impact on offense and special teams. We love his character and he’s been a spark plug for our team since we drafted him. Tarik and I both feel he’s a young, ascending player with a lot of high-level years left in this league and we are glad he will be with us in the years to come.”

It’s a landmark contract for Cohen, 25, who is in the final season of his rookie deal. He has gone from a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina A&T, the 119th player selected that year, to an essential piece of the Bears’ future. It’s a seismic raise from the four-year, $3 million rookie contract he received in 2017.

An extension for Cohen would’ve been a near-certainty a year ago, but his production dipped drastically in 2019. He went from leading the team in yards from scrimmage at 1,169 in his first season with coach Matt Nagy to 456 yards receiving and 213 rushing last season.

After seeing that slow his momentum for a big payday, Cohen vowed to be in better shape for this season and redirect his career. Nagy saw the difference as soon as the Bears got on the practice field last month.

“He’s really dedicated right now and trying to be coachable,” Nagy said. “That’s what I think is really neat.

“There were some things we saw last year that we thought he could do better. He’s hit that full steam ahead and there’s been some changes, whether it’s his angle in the run game or whether it’s a specific route we’re trying to teach him. So I’m really happy for the way he’s handled that.”

Cohen played well in the Bears’ season opener against the Lions. He had 41 rushing yards — more than he had in any game last season — on seven carries and 6 yards on two catches.

He is 14th in his draft class with 2,608 yards of total offense — 1,540 receiving and 1,068 rushing. He was also selected as an all-pro punt returner in 2018.

Cohen wasn’t shy about wanting a new deal.

“It’s definitely a motivating factor being that this is the year,” he said in June. “I feel like I can’t put any pressure on nobody else. It’s all on me. That’s how I like to go about it. I just take it upon myself, anything else like, I want to win as a team. I feel like if we win as a team that is good for everybody’s individual success.”

The Bears still have one offensive star angling for a new contract: receiver Allen Robinson. After playing the season opener without one, Robinson went on social media and scrubbed all references to the team. He said on Wednesday, though, that his heart is with the Bears, speaking to Nagy to make sure the two sides were on the game page.

Nagy reiterated Wednesday that the Bears have a history of rewarding their own players financially.

“Our players all realize the history we have here in regards to taking care of guys,” he said.

That proved to be the case hours before the Bears’ home opener — only not with Robinson.