Currently the Bears have 88 players on their roster, and will likely fill the last two spots imminently.
That aside, the Bears pretty much have their training camp roster in place. Sure, maybe the back end of the roster will change a couple more times, in addition to the aforementioned two open spots, but nothing major.
So what do the roster moves yesterday, as well as who is on the roster, tell us about the 2014 Bears?
First let's look at the guys who were given their walking papers yesterday.
Israel Idonije, DE - Fan-favorite Idonije left the Bears last year and had a non-impact season with the Lions. He's older and, while there seemed to be a fit, he was running with the threes and the fours and the Bears could get both younger and cheaper by going in another direction.
Sean Catthouse, DB - Catthouse, an undrafted free agent of the Chargers in 2012, he spent time on and off with the Bears last season and has appeared in two NFL games. He was, at best, roster depth; at worst, a camp body/practice squad fodder.
Jerrod Johnson, QB - Johnson is a big, athletic QB who has spent the majority of the offseason with the Bears. The team is not his first stop in the NFL and may not be his last. Once Clausen was brought in it seemed all but certain he was the odd man out, with David Fales being a draft pick and Jordan Palmer the incumbent.
Fendi Onobun, TE - What's left to say about Fendi? He couldn't make a catch when it counted to save his life. It's a cruel irony in a way because for years the Bears had guys who could catch but couldn't get open (Andy Fantuz, Brandon Rideau, Mike Hass) and now they found a guy who out-of-this-world athleticism at a position and he can't catch. The Bears will look elsewhere at TE.
To fill the positions they cut yesterday they signed a DE out of Rutgers named Jamil Merrell (6'4" 252 lbs) and Wisconsin LB Conor O'Neill (6'0" 240 lbs). Both are undrafted rookies. The Bears will likely add a TE to at least one of the two remaining open spots; the other is a wildcard.
As the roster stands it should give some clues to how position battles will shape up next month in Bourbonnais.
1) Back up TE and QB are wide open - With entrenched starters Martellus Bennett and Jay Cutler, respectively, it will be up to players like Dante Rosario, the other Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan, as well as a player yet to be determined. Miller and Mulligan have combined for 61 catches, 630 yards and six touchdowns while Rosario would seem to have the upper hand in career production (100/1,119/8) and that he's been with the team for a whole season already.
Palmer, the Rosario of the QB group, maintains a slight edge in that competition due to familiarity and time with the team; however, don't sleep on Jimmy Clausen. Reports have been good about Clausen and he had to show something physically this week in order to earn the call to camp, because he was behind the others in terms of the playbook. Clausen is a reclamation project but Marc Trestman could get something out of him.
2) Defensive line spots will be worth watching - The Bears had wanted to keep more DL on the roster last year but the surprise retirement of Sedrick Ellis threw a wrench in those plans and, when injuries mounted up, the team was shorthanded. The Bears finished last season with nine defensive linemen on the team (three DTs and six DEs, including Corey Wootton who played out of position) and two on injured/reserve. Expect the Bears to carry ten this year.
Currently the Bears have 15 DL listed on their roster (That's counting the Idonije/Merrell swap). Expect the final spot to come down to David Bass, Austen Lane, Cornelius Washington and Trevor Scott at DE. DT will be harder for camp bodies Lee Pegues and Brandon Dunn to crack with all the draft picks and established players there. The final couple of DE spots could be an interesting storyline to watch
3) Linebacker has sneaky depth - It's easy to look at linebacker and see the position as one of concern; however it could also be seen as one of strength. As it stands, two positions are being battled for next to Lance Briggs: Jon Bostic is competing both with D.J. Williams for the MLB spot, and with Shea McClellin for the strong side spot.
Competition breeds success and, by most accounts, Bostic looks as good as a player can without pads on. He's said himself that the defensive changes feel 'natural' and that he feels like the game is slowing down for him. Even if he can't beat out a solid veteran like Williams, holding off McClellin, who is changing positions, would mean that the defense gets his athleticism on the field. McClellin, for his part, apparently seems to be fitting in at LB, so even if he loses out he should be able to learn from the background and, if pressed into duty, hopefully be able to hold his own.
4) Back up running back is interesting too - The No. 2 spot behind Matt Forte could be the back up position that makes the most impact for the Bears, despite TE and QB being more talked about. Spelling Forte is a priority and having a quality No. 2 in place should something happen to Forte is of the utmost importance for the offense. Things could easily go off the rails if Cutler is out, and the offense has enough receiving weapons already that a second TE isn't much more than a blocker; the offense should be able to skirt by for a short period of time without the Black Unicorn, but Forte's place in the Trestman offense is pretty huge.
Trestman's reference to the "logjam" behind Forte could be the usual rosy June football talk, or it could be that the Bears have an interesting set of talent at the position. I have a hard time seeing the team carrying any more than three backs out of Michael Ford, Ka'Deem Carey, Shaun Draughn and Jordan Lynch. Unless one of those guys impresses enough to make it worth replacing Tony Fiametta, expect the back up RB spot to be one to monitor.
These are just the big four things that have jumped out at me since the offseason ended. There is also a safety battle going on, but I omitted that because injuries at the position have kept it from being much of a battle. That one will be one to watch at camp but it hasn't been much throughout the spring as Chris Conte and Craig Steltz were shelved.
Which position battles and storylines caught your eye this spring? What are your thoughts on these position battles?