The Chicago Bears are at their bye, sitting with a 4-8 record with 5 games remaining. Being the Bears could win out and still miss the playoffs, it’s certainly a sensible time to start looking ahead to 2024. So this article isn’t about Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Marvin Harrison, or any free agents, it’s simply a look at the current roster and which Chicago Bears should return in 2024.
Quarterback- Tyson Bagent
The Chicago Bears are almost certainly going to have one of the top two selections in the NFL Draft. Ryan Poles has said that a QB prospect would have to “blow him away” to move on from Justin Fields, but I believe we will hear him say just that in late April. I believe Justin Fields will be traded, probably for a second round pick. And Tyson Bagent will return as the team’s QB2.
Running back- Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
In this group, I think only D’Onta Foreman doesn’t return. Foreman was signed to just a one year deal and has once again proven to be a quality asset on a 53-man roster. Foreman knows his opportunities here are limited and someone will offer him a chance to have a larger role elsewhere. Homer was signed to a two-year deal so he returns for his help on special teams and Blasingame re-signs as the team’s fullback.
Tight End- Cole Kmet
Marcedes Lewis has played the exact role the Bears have wanted him to and he’s been a help, but I doubt if Lewis wants to play again, that he ends up back in Chicago, Robert Tonyan hasn’t done much and his use has been pretty low. The Bears will need to make additions behind Kmet, but I think they’ll sign a new TE2 and perhaps look to add a young tight end in the mid rounds of the draft.
Wide Receiver- DJ Moore, Tyler Scott
I almost left Jones on the roster, because he is Ryan Poles’ pet project, and I expect massive changes at this position this offseason, which means Jones could slide in as a WR6, but after his continued poor performances, I just can’t do it. I think the Bears will have a new offensive coordinator who won’t see the same value in Equanimeous St. Brown. Darnell Mooney hasn’t been thrilled about his role here and will look to sign a 1 or 2-year deal somewhere where he can get a larger role that could lead to a bigger payday.
Offensive Line- Darnell Wright, Nate Davis, Teven Jenkins, Braxton Jones, Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter
The Bears will have a couple open spots on the roster next year on the offensive line and both of them will need to be able to play center. Cody Whitehair will be released and Lucas Patrick will not be re-signed. I expect the Bears to sign a center in free agency and pick up another one in the draft. Larry Borom returns as the swing tackle in the final year of his contract.
Special Teams- Cairo Santos, Trenton Gill, Patrick Scales
Scales always seems to have the long snap in the right place, so it doesn’t seem like there will be any need for a change there and Santos continues to show that he’s become one of the best kickers in the league. Gill has struggled and could be replaced, but the Bears have bigger fish to fry and may ride out one more year with Gill to see if he can recover from his sophomore slump, and if he can’t, we see a new punter here in 2025.
Defensive Line- Montez Sweat, DeMarcus Walker, Gervon Dexter, Andrew Billings, Zacch Pickens
The question here was Dominque Robinson who could keep his job as the 9th and last linemen in this group, but for now, we’ll cross our fingers that Ryan Poles moves on from his project that isn’t coming to fruition.
Rasheem Green is just a guy and has shown little reason to keep him. They’ll look to upgrade Justin Jones and Yannick Ngakoue was here on a one-year mercenary deal. I expect the Bears to sign both an edge and an interior player (perhaps a pricey one) in free agency and also add to this group in the draft.
Linebackers- Tremaine Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Micah Baskerville
The top four here are pretty obvious. I think Baskerville makes it with a year of seasoning on the practice squad. He showed a lot last August, and there hasn’t been much room for him on the depth chart this season, but he will make his case and land a 53-man spot next year.
Cornerbacks- Jaylon Johnson (franchise tag), Tyrique Stevenson, Kyler Gordon, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones, Josh Blackwell
The one I’m least certain about here is Blackwell, who is only 24 years old and has shown some signs that he can play in limited opportunities. But this is a really strong group, and even Jaylon Jones has shown that he can play. You can’t let Johnson walk for nothing, and I expect the Bears to play him on the tag next season to see if he can have this level of success two years in a row and also see if they think Smith is ready to take that next step and become an every down cornerback.
Safety- Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks
Being there’s been injuries here and Kendall Williamson hasn’t been given opportunities, that means he’s probably not going to be here very long, unless he makes big strides this offseason. Hicks is bad and shouldn’t be on the roster, but I can’t see the team adding three new safeties in one offseason with other major holes here. Eddie Jackson’s age and contract means they’ll depart from him and they’ll need a new starting safety, and hopefully a bigger investment here with a 3rd or 4th round pick that can be the team’s third safety in front of Hicks.
That would be 35 players returning from this year’s team. That still leaves 18 spots to be filled in free agency and the draft and, of course, a couple of bottom of the roster churn guys that make the team.
It also means that only 7 Ryan Pace-era players would return, with two of them on special teams (Santos, Scales), 1 on defense (Johnson) and 4 on offense (Herbert, Kmet, Jenkins, Borom). That also means that Patrick Scales would be the longest tenured Bear and the only Bear remaining from the roster the last time they had a winning record (2018).
Ryan Pace only kept 5 players from Phil Emery once he was able to fully churn the roster (Charles Leno, Kyle Long, Sherrick McManis, Pat O’Donnell, Kyle Fuller). Poles would be at 7 Pace players with 1-year left before the roster is fully churned to see how many he decided to keep on his team.