The Bears cut running back Tarik Cohen, who was a versatile weapon in his first two seasons but had not played since tearing an ACL in Week 3 of the 2020 season. The move Friday comes with an injury designation, meaning Cohen could not pass a physical.
Cutting Cohen was expected after new general manager Ryan Poles refused to divulge any update on Cohen’s medical condition when meeting with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine last week.
The move will save the Bears $2.5 million in salary cap pace, per overthecap.com. Cohen had a $5.75 million cap number in 2022, but the Bears will incur a $3.5 million charge in dead money by cutting him.
The Cohen saga typified Ryan Pace’s seven-year tenure as general manager before he was fired after the 2021 season. The 5-6, 194-pound Cohen was a genuine find for Pace in the fourth-round of the 2017 draft from North Carolina A&T — a versatile scatback/kick returner with big-play ability and an exciting style that made the diminutive Cohen an immediate fan-favorite.
As a rookie in 2017 under John Fox, Cohen scored on a 46-yard run and a dazzling 61-yard punt return and had a 70-yard pass reception. He also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller against the Ravens to become the first NFL player since the Cardinals’ Terry Metcalf in 1975 (and the first rookie since Gale Sayers in 1965) to produce a touchdown with a rush, reception, punt return and pass. He also was the rookie winner of the Brian Piccolo Award that season.
Cohen was even more productive in Matt Nagy’s first season in 2018, when he made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry (99-444) with three touchdowns, 10.2 yards per reception (71-725) with five touchdowns — including 50- and 70-yard receptions from Mitch Trubisky.
Like everything else with Nagy’s offense, it was presumed that the best was yet to come the next season. But that hope dissolved, eventually in disastrous fashion for Cohen. His production dropped significantly in 2019 — to 3.3 yards per carry (64-213, no touchdowns) and 5.8 yards per reception (79-456, three touchdowns).
He signed a three-year, $18.3 million contract extension two weeks into the 2020 season. But eight days later, Cohen tore an ACL when he was hit while making a fair catch on a punt return.
Cohen never played for the Bears again. He not only missed the final 14 games of that season (including a wild-card playoff game), but also missed the entire 2022 season — never appearing even close to returning. The Bears never explained the extended recovery, refused to address or deflected any questions about a complication or additional surgery.
Cohen finished his Bears career with 264 carries for 1,101 yards (4.2 avg.) and five touchdowns rushing; and 209 receptions for 1,575 yards (7.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns receiving.