The Chicago Bears are in line to be one of the most improved teams in 2023. With several new faces in tow via free agency and trades, not to mention a few draft picks expected to make an impact as rookies, the Bears will absolutely build on their woeful 3 win season of 2022.
But as the team improves, Ryan Poles will be evaluating this roster to see who should stay with this team in 2024 as well. With a new series, we will examine and count down the 10 Chicago Bears who have the most to prove this season with the franchise.
10. Kindle Vildor
After Kindle Vildor’s 2021 season, I think most Chicago Bears fans wrote him off. I know I certainly did. But Vildor’s 2022 season showed promise for a defensive back who may have taken some time to get his footing at the NFL level.
Vildor came from Georgia Southern, which technically is an FBS school, but competition in the Sun Belt Conference certainly shouldn’t be mistaken for the Big 12. Sometimes the learning curve is a bit steeper and that may have been the case for Vildor who had a limited snap count on defense as a rookie but had significant opportunities in his second year in 2021.
Unfortunately, Vildor’s play in 2021 certainly didn’t provide much hope for his future. He struggled mightily giving up key plays and looking more like a guy who didn’t quite have it at the NFL level.
But Vildor’s 2022 season showed hope. With a new scheme with Matt Eberflus in town, Vildor looked far more comfortable in 2022 and played pretty darn well the first 8 games of the season. But injuries derailed Vildor’s season and when he was able to get back on the field, he certainly didn’t look like the same player Bears’ fans saw during the first half of the season, he looked more like the 2021 version.
So now we enter the 2023 season, which is Vildor’s last under contract in Chicago. Ryan Poles selected Tyrique Stevenson in the second round and many people, myself included, believe Stevenson will beat out Vildor for the starting cornerback spot opposite Jaylon Johnson.
But that certainly doesn’t mean Vildor won’t compete. If Vildor outperforms the rookie, he will keep his starting position, but beyond that, even if Stevenson does start, as the team’s fourth corner, Vildor will have ample snaps due to injuries and rotating during the year to be a key part of this defense.
But with this being Vildor’s last year of his contract, he’s playing for his NFL future, not just in Chicago, but in the league in general. If Vildor makes the most of his opportunities, even if Poles decides to let him walk after this season, Vildor will have a chance to get a little coin in his pocket from another team willing to take a chance on him as a low-end starter. But if Vildor struggles this season going into free agency, it will certainly be his last in Chicago and not exactly the position he will want to be in as he looks for a new team and a new contract.