The Bears made a potentially sneaky good signing in undrafted free agency in the form of former Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent.
Bagent was a superstar at the Division II level, being a first-team D2 All-American in each of his last two seasons in college. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in Division II in 2021, and he broke the record across all collegiate divisions with 159 career passing touchdowns.
Being a small-school quarterback hurt his chances to get drafted — no D2 quarterback has been selected in the NFL Draft since J.T. O’Sullivan in 2002 — but it was considered a surprise when he hit undrafted free agency. He had a clean seventh-round grade on my big board, and Dane Brugler of The Athletic listed Bagent as one of the top undrafted free agents on his board this year.
Ultimately, it worked out for Chicago, who signed Bagent as an undrafted free agent. The Bears haven’t invested in developmental quarterback types in a long time: they haven’t drafted a quarterback on Day 3 since David Fales in 2014. That streak may not have broken after the 2023 class, but Bagent is the most notable undrafted signing the team has made at quarterback since then.
Bagent had one of the top arms of the “next tier” of quarterbacks outside of the quarterback selected within the first two rounds. He offers nice arm elasticity and the ability to deliver throws with good velocity from several arm angles. He has above-average athletic ability, too, as he had enough mobility to consistently evade pressure in the pocket at the Division II level. Judging by his athletic profile, that trait should be able to translate to the NFL level.
He is an accurate passer with a good sense of timing and natural anticipation behind his throws, and he does a good job of maneuvering the pocket, keeping his head up to scan the field while keeping his feet active to avoid pressure.
Bagent has a bit of an elongated throwing motion and a low release point, which could be cleaned up at the NFL level. He also has a tendency to force reads to his first look, which a lot of rookies face coming out of college, but doing so at the Division II level is much more maskable than doing so in the NFL.
It’s worth noting the Bears typically had two quarterbacks on their active roster for game day. Justin Fields served as the starter, and his starting position doesn’t seem to be in any jeopardy for the 2023 season. With Trevor Siemian typically slated as the backup, they didn’t utilize an active roster spot on a third quarterback. Nathan Peterman spent most of 2022 on the practice squad, and when Siemian got hurt, Chicago promoted Peterman to the main roster and also signed Tim Boyle to the main roster, though the latter wasn’t active on game days until Fields and Siemian were both injured.
The Bears likely have their first two quarterbacks locked in with Fields and P.J. Walker, the latter of whom having started 5 games for the Panthers in 2022. Walker projects as a quality backup quarterback, and with a career record of 4-3 in the games he’s started, he’s proven himself capable of leading a team in relief of the starter.
That said, don’t expect Bagent to be active on game days unless one of Fields or Walker are injured. Peterman has the advantage of being an NFL veteran, so if he earns a practice squad opportunity over Bagent, it would likely come down to the Bears essentially wanting another coach to help Fields develop.
Based off that logic alone, Bagent seems to have a 50/50 shot to stick within Chicago’s organization. What he lacks in NFL experience, though, he makes up for with superior arm talent, athleticism and upside to Peterman. If the Bears feel comfortable enough with Fields’ development and their own coaching staff — which they arguably should be with a third-year quarterback — they could make the long-term play and keep Bagent along on their practice squad.