After flopping with Patriots, WR N’Keal Harry gets ‘much-needed reset’ with Bears

Two weeks ago, the Bears traded literally the least they could legally give up — a 2024 seventh-round pick — to take a flier on the 6-4, 225-pounder who, when things have gone well, has the ability to box out defenders and outjump them for the ball.

SHARE After flopping with Patriots, WR N’Keal Harry gets ‘much-needed reset’ with Bears
Bears receiver N’Keal Harry talks Wednesday after practice.

The Bears traded for receiver N’Keal Harry earlier this month.

Jason Lieser/Sun-Times

Not long after the Bears traded for receiver N’Keal Harry earlier this month, coach Matt Eberflus called the former first-round pick. 

“Hey, this is a fresh start — it’s a clean slate,” Eberflus said he told him. “We’re going to look at you on a day-to-day basis and you dive in and buy into everything we’re doing — and we’ll see how far it goes.”

It was what Harry needed to hear.

“This is a reset,” Harry said after the Bears’ first practice Wednesday. “A much-needed reset.”

When he was drafted No. 32 overall in 2019 out of Arizona State, Harry became the first receiver that Patriots boss Bill Belichick had ever taken in the first round. 

He was the second receiver drafted. Players chosen in Round 2 included Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Mecole Hardman and Diontae Johnson. All five have been named to at least one Pro Bowl, and all but Hardman has at least 2,500 receiving yards.

Harry has a mere 57 catches for 598 yards in three seasons.

After Harry’s second season, Belichick signed two receivers and two pass-catching tight ends. He asked for a trade, didn’t get dealt and never caught more than two passes in a game last season.

Two weeks ago, the Bears traded literally the least they could legally give up — a 2024 seventh-round pick — to take a flyer on the 6-4, 225-pounder who, when things have gone well, has the ability to box out defenders and outjump them for the ball. In three years at ASU, he averaged 13.6 yards per catch and totaled 22 touchdowns.

“We all saw what he did at Arizona State,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “And just his frame, what he can do as a playmaker, I’m very excited to see what he can do on the field.”

It was the kind of gamble that rebuilding teams should be making.  

“This is a golden opportunity for all of us,” Harry said. “It’s just, ‘Who’s going to grab it?’ For me I just feel like for me to capitalize off this . . . I just have to show how dominant I am and I just need to be that big, strong wide receiver.”

Harry might be the only one standing in his own way. The Bears have one of the most underwhelming receiver rooms in the NFL, with Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle the only players guaranteed to make the team. 

Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome and rookie Velus Jones are among a dozen receivers fighting for playing time. If Harry can’t beat them out, he might not have a home on any team in the league.

“I just want to show how dominant I could be just as a player in the NFL,” he said.

It’s fair to wonder, though: If Harry couldn’t perform well for the most functional franchise in the NFL, why would he for the Bears?

“There’s a lot of factors — I wasn’t in that building or anything,” general manager Ryan Poles said. “I just know what he’s capable of. And I want to give him the opportunity to come here and show that he can do that and get things on the right path.” 

If he does, it’d show the Patriots what they missed out on. 

Harry said that’s not what drives him.

“At this point I honestly couldn’t care less about what anybody has to say about me,” he said. “I know what I can do. I’m confident in my ability. And I just need to go out there and show it.”

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