Cut down week has officially arrived and each NFL team around the league must cut from 80 players down to 53 before Saturday’s 4PM eastern time deadline. This means that the majority of teams will have to cut exactly 27 players, with the hope of bringing back 16 of those players on their extended practice squads for 2020 due to COVID-19.
Before we dive into roster and practice squad projections, it’s worth highlighting a few of the changes for 2020.
- 16 team practice squads (up from 10 in 2019).
- 6 out of the 16 players can have unlimited accrued seasons (meaning any veteran can be on the practice squad).
- 4 of the 16 players can have 2 or less accrued years.
- Each team can choose to elevate up to 2 players per game, upping their active roster to 55 players.
- Each game week, teams can “protect” 4 players that cannot be poached by other teams on the practice squad. Bye weeks do not count as protection.
(A big thanks to Ken Ingalls) for an easy to understand breakdown on the 2020 roster situation)
So with all of this in mind, teams will be careful about keeping players they do not want to risk going through waivers or being poached by other teams. Yet, they will also know that with limited to no film on younger players, they’ll have a much easier time passing them through to the practice squad and then protecting their “valued” practice squad players.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive straight into projecting what the 2020 Chicago Bears roster will look like by the end of this weekend.
Quarterback (2): Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky
Practice Squad (1): Tyler Bray
Much has been made about this competition since the team acquired Foles back in March and that decision will finally come to a head at some point soon. While the Bears have said they will not make an “official announcement” until they take the field next Sunday afternoon, we’ll likely know who the team’s starter is by the end of the week due to someone like Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport breaking the news. Bray, of course, is the team’s practice squad quarterback and there’s very little mystery to that.
Runningback (4): David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Artavis Pierce
Practice Squad (1): Ryan Nall
This is a spot that has some caveats to it. Montgomery is the Bears’ unquestioned starter. Problem is, a groin injury will cause him to miss two-to-four weeks according to the NFL Network, which leaves Week 1 in serious doubt at this point. Behind him, Cohen and Patterson are locks for the roster. With the injury to Montgomery, it’s likely that they decide to keep an extra body, which will be between Pierce and Ryan Nall. While many like Nall’s versatility, Pierce’s speed and reported snaps with the first team in place of Montgomery lead some to believe he’ll get the job if they do indeed keep four backs.
Wide Receiver (5): Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn Jr., Darnell Mooney and Riley Ridley
Practice Squad (3): Javon Wims, Reggie Davis and Thomas Ives
Receiver is another position that has been widely debated as to who will land that final roster spot or two. Really, it comes down to how many players they want to keep at the position and with the versatility of both Cohen and Patterson slotting in at running back, there’s a good chance they could keep five at this position and keep an extra tight end.
In this situation, Ginn Jr.’s veteran presence and Ridley’s draft status should win out. Don’t sleep on Mooney seeing decent playing time out of the gate, but it seems like that either Wims or Ridley will end up being the odd-man out here, unless they decide to carry 6 true receivers on the roster.
The good news? Either Ridley or Wims might sneak onto the practice squad, even if they don’t make the final 53-man roster.
Tight End (5): Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted
Practice Squad (1): Eric Saubert
While it may not be a normal thing to keep five tight ends on a 53-man roster, the versatility at multiple positions other than tight end could allow the team to do keep more than four heading into the season. The top three names are locks for this roster and there’s a decent chance that Holtz and Horsted are fighting for the final spot. Even so, why not keep both?
Holtz brings versatility as a tight end and full back, while Horsted’s ceiling might be slightly higher as a true pass catcher at the “U” position. They will face a tough decision here, but if there was ever a position to keep an extra player, this is it.
Offensive Line (9): Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Germain Ifedi, Bobby Massie, Jason Spriggs, Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars and Lachavious Simmons
Practice Squad (2): Arlington Hambright and Corey Levin
Without the injury to Spriggs, the Bears likely keep eight guys and maybe once Spriggs is fully healthy, they can do that. Until then, it’s hard to see how they would keep just eight guys, especially when you consider that their offensive tackle depth would be held by one player with zero experience in that role. Yes, Simmons is a rookie, but at this point the team would have another body to throw out there on game day if someone like Bars didn’t work out. Injuries are a part of the game and their depth without Spriggs is scary thin.
Defensive Line (6): Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, John Jenkins, Brent Urban and Abdullah Anderson
Practice Squad (1): Trevon McSwain
Even without Eddie Goldman — who opted out last month — this is a unit with a ton of talent and more importantly, good depth. The biggest question will come down to whether or not they decide to carry five or six players and due to the Goldman opt-out. Although, sticking with six seems like a smart move to start the year. Either way, this is a unit that should have no problems with productivity or depth throughout the season.
Edge Rusher (5): Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Barkevious Mingo, Trevis Gipson and Isaiah Irving
Practice Squad (1): LeDarius Mack and James Vaughters
Much like the defensive line, the bigger question is how many players they’ll decide to roster at edge rusher. The good news? They have some solid depth. It appears that Mingo will be the team’s first player off the bench within the rotation and while Gipson was a fifth-round pick, they could opt to use him in purely pass rushing situations in limited opportunities to start off the year.
The final spot is likely between Irving and James Vaughters, but Irving was the team’s choice last year and it appears he will be again this year, assuming they keep five.
Inside Linebacker (4): Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods
Practice Squad (1): Rashad Smith
This is a spot where depth is dangerously low. It’s possible that they could end up signing Alec Ogletree (who they had in for a workout last week), but as of now, they are rolling with a pair of players that have zero starting experience and have found themselves on the back end of the depth chart to start their careers. Smith is an interesting name and should be a lock for the practice squad as an undrafted free agent.
Cornerback (6): Kyle Fuller, Buster Skrine, Jaylon Johnson, Kevin Toliver II, Sherrick McManis and Kindle Vildor
Practice Squad (3): Duke Shelley, Xavier Crawford and Stephen Denmark
Despite Artie Burns going down with a torn ACL early in camp, there’s still plenty of solid depth at this position. Reportedly, Fuller has had a very strong camp and Skrine is a reliable veteran who didn’t get enough credit for his play last year. Obviously the big battle comes down between Johnson and Toliver, but if Johnson is healthy and up to speed he’ll be the starter Week 1 in some capacity. The Bears may be choosing between Vildor and Shelley for that final spot, with the hope that they can slide the “loser” of the competition onto the practice squad.
Safety (4): Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson
Practice Squad (N/A)
Suspension: Marqui Christian
To put it simply, this is a position where the team has no additional names on the roster, making this decision pretty easy. It’s worth noting that McManis can slot in either the nickel or as a backup safety, which helps. Gipson and Bush have been battling it out at safety and only time will tell who actually wins that job. But overall, their depth is totally fine here. Christian is likely going to make the roster, but must serve a two-game suspension before he can be moved to the active roster, which gives them some time to figure out logistics.
Special Teams (3): Cairo Santos, Patrick O’Donnell and Patrick Scales
Practice Squad (1): Eddy Pineiro
If healthy, Pineiro wins the kicking job and we have very little to talk about here, but due to yet another groin issue (that has been an issue going back to his time with the Raiders), it’s likely that we see Santos break camp with the team as their kicker. Pineiro will likely be cut and then passed through waivers. The Bears have been very open about keeping a pair of kickers this year, but it doesn’t mean both need to be on the final roster. Once Pineiro is healthy, he’ll get his roster spot back, but as of right now he’s not even kicking.
Practice Squad (16): Tyler Bray, Ryan Nall, Javon Wims, Reggie Davis, Thomas Ives, Eric Saubert, Arlington Hambright, Corey Levin, Trevon McSwain, LeDarius Mack, James Vaughters, Rashad Smith, Duke Shelley, Xavier Crawford, Stephen Denmark, Eddy Pineiro