As the heat of summer begins to kick up, the heat of the NFL offseason has dwindled down.
With the draft over with and most of the marquee free agents off the market, teams can begin to settle in with their current roster and prepare for the 2020 season. While uncertainty surrounding training camp, the preseason and the regular season itself still looms over the league with the COVID-19 outbreak, teams have tried to get ready for the year ahead regardless.
The Bears are coming off of an interesting offseason, during which they brought in legitimate quarterback competition, acquired seemingly endless tight ends and added some intriguing defensive talent to an already stacked unit. As controversial as some of their moves may have been, there’s no denying that they were active, despite being strapped for cash.
Numerous reforms were put into place as a result of the new CBA signed in March, and among them was an increase in roster size. Teams are now allowed to carry 55 players on their active roster during the season, but only if they elevate one or two players up from their practice squad, and they must set their opening roster with 53 players. 48 of those players can be active on game day, as long as the team carries eight or more offensive linemen on the active roster. The practice squad carrying capacity now sits at 12 instead of 10, with an increase to 14 looming on the horizon for the 2022 season.
Yeah, it’s a confusing rule.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a way-too-early crack at what the Bears’ roster might look like when the regular season rolls around.
Quarterbacks (2): Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
It’s a two-man race for the starting quarterback position, and the Bears may think against keeping on Tyler Bray now that the new CBA rules make him eligible for the practice squad again.
Running backs (3): David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
Undrafted free agent Artavis Pierce could potentially sneak onto the 55-man roster, as Nall hasn’t proven much at the professional level. However, familiarity with the system wins out, and the Bears go forward with three backs on the roster.
Wide receivers (7): Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn Jr., Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson, Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims
The expansion to 55 players may be the saving grace for this wide receiver group, which features a handful of players who are talented enough to make an NFL roster but may not have the flashiest skill sets in the world.
Tight ends (5): Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz
The Bears currently have nine tight ends on their roster, and while they obviously won’t keep all of them, expect the team to still keep a considerable amount of players at the position on their roster. Harris makes it for his abilities as a ‘Y’ tight end while Kmet adjusts to the NFL, Braunecker for his special teams value, and Holtz for his experience as a pseudo fullback in I-formation looks.
Offensive linemen (8): Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, Bobby Massie, Jason Spriggs, Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars
Barring a late offseason addition in free agency, the Bears’ starting offensive line appears to be set. One of Arlington Hambright or Lachavious Simmons could make it onto the 55-man roster, but they choose familiarity in the system with Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars, as well as a veteran with physical upside in Jason Spriggs, to shore up the backup spots here.
Defensive linemen (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, John Jenkins, Brent Urban
The Bears appear to be relatively set along the defensive line. Jenkins, Urban and Abdullah Anderson will presumably battle it out for roster spots, but Jenkins’ versatility and Urban’s solid play in 2019 get them onto the 55-man squad for the upcoming year.
Edge rushers (5): Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Trevis Gipson, Barkevious Mingo, Isaiah Irving
The Bears certainly improved at edge rusher this offseason. Mack, Quinn and Gipson are locks—this obviously rings true with the first two—and Mingo should make it onto the roster due to his special teams value. Irving and Vaughters will be among those battling for a roster spot, but Irving offers a bit more experience.
Linebackers (4): Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Josh Woods
Chicago has two quality linebackers in the starting lineup, but their depth at the position is shaky. Luckily for Iyiegbuniwe and Woods, they will likely have the initial upper hand against undrafted free agents Rashad Smith and Ledarius Mack.
Cornerbacks (7): Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Sherrick McManis, Kindle Vildor, Tre Roberson
This was probably the toughest position to pick for. The first three listed are locks to make the team, but everything after that gets shaky. Toliver makes it for his value on the boundary, and McManis returns for his experience with the team and his immense special teams value. Being a fifth-round rookie, Vildor’s likely safe on the active roster. Roberson gets the slight edge over Duke Shelley, Artie Burns and Stephen Denmark, though. If the Bears project Vildor as a slot corner, they might take a chance on placing Shelley on the practice squad since he doesn’t offer a lot of upside as an outside corner.
Safeties (5): Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Deon Bush, Jordan Lucas, DeAndre Houston-Carson
Jackson and Gipson have roster spots locked down, and Bush presumably does, as well. Houston-Carson has been waived before, but his familiarity with the system and special teams value gets him onto the team, while Lucas could serve as experienced depth in the secondary.
Specialists (3): Eddy Piñeiro, Pat O’Donnell, Patrick Scales
The Bears have four specialists on the roster, and Piñeiro’s 2019 performance showed enough promise that he shouldn’t have to worry about losing his roster spot.
12-man practice squad
- QB Tyler Bray
- RB Artavis Pierce
- TE Jesper Horsted
- OL Arlington Hambright
- OL Lachavious Simmons
- DL Abdullah Anderson
- EDGE James Vaughters
- LB Rashad Smith
- LB Ledarius Mack
- CB Duke Shelley
- CB Stephen Denmark
- S Kentrell Brice