The Chicago Bears roster has been pretty straightforward the last few years. Largely that’s because the bottom of the roster was lacking in talent and it made it easier to project who was going to end up where.
This season is a different story, the roster bubble is large, and it includes plenty of guys that would be shoo-ins in the past. Add the mix of injuries and preseason performances (both good and bad), and you’ve got yourself a complicated mix of players.
Here’s a look at what the 53-man roster could look like, but keep one thing in mind, the Bears will almost certainly be adding one or two players off the waiver wire. Ryan Poles has been utilizing waiver claims throughout August, and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change during his last real opportunity to utilize their waiver position.
Justin Fields, PJ Walker, Tyson Bagent (3)
Practice Squad: Nathan Peterman
I want Poles to pull the trigger here and let Walker go, but I just think in the end, they go the conservative route and keep all four quarterbacks. Walker was guaranteed $2 million, and I just think they’ll work with Walker and try to get the most out of him. Walker was signed to a two-year contract, and unless something massive changes, the Bears won’t honor the second year of that contract, but with that much guaranteed money, I do think they honor the first.
In years past, Bagent would be a safe bet to slide onto the practice squad, but with the new QB3 rule, teams just don’t know how many QBs other teams will be keeping on their active rosters this year. While teams would never pick up Bagent as their QB2 as someone who doesn’t know their system, sliding him on the roster as a developmental QB3 who won’t need to play immediately is certainly a possibility. I think the Bears put him on the 53 to protect him as he will project as the team’s QB2 in 2024.
Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, D’Onta Foreman, Travis Homer (4)
Practice Squad: Trestan Ebner
This is a position group that’s pretty straightforward. Herbert and Johnson should see the bulk of the offensive snaps with Foreman being a fantastic depth piece. Homer provides too much on third down and special teams to let him go. Ebner doesn’t do much, but having an extra guy on the practice squad certainly won’t hurt.
Khari Blasingame (1)
Practice Squad: Robert Burns
Pretty straightforward here too. The Bears like the usefulness of Blasingame and Burns has shown enough to be stashed on the practice squad and is an easy call-up if Blasingame is dealing with an injury.
Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis (3)
Practice Squad: Lachlan Pitts
The top three are obvious, and they’ll absolutely want a fourth tight end around to protect them from injuries.
DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Tyler Scott, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones (6)
Practice Squad: Nsimba Webster, Daurice Fountain
Look, I don’t know who is going to return punts for the Bears, it might be Velus Jones and a prayer, but I can’t see Poles parting with his first-ever offensive draft pick after one season. Every GM is stubborn, and Poles seems less stubborn than many, but he still has his convictions. Not to mention, Richard Hightower called Jones the best kick returner in the game, while that certainly isn’t that valuable in today’s NFL, it’s tough to see them releasing him after those comments.
Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter, Alex Leatherwood (9)
Practice Squad: Kellen Diesch, Doug Kramer, Dieter Eiselen
This one is difficult to figure out, the top eight are easy, and carrying a ninth offensive linemen tips the 53-man roster to a 26-24 lean to the offense which most teams don’t do, but with Teven Jenkins already dealing with an injury, it’s tough to see them start the season with only seven healthy offensive linemen.
On top of that, another thing that could throw a wrench in things is Cody Whitehair’s hand which is injured. If that’s a long-term injury and he can’t play center, the Bears may be forced to keep Doug Kramer on the 53 because Patrick would be the only capable center on the active roster.
Cairo Santos, Trenton Gill, Patrick Scales (3)
Practice Squad: None
Um, yeah, this one is a no-brainer.
Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green, Dominique Robinson, Terrell Lewis (5)
Practice Squad: D’Anthony Jones
For a team that struggles to put pressure on the quarterback, this is certainly the toughest position to figure out. I’m still cutting Trevis Gipson despite some strong showings. Carrying six defensive ends seems gluttonous, and while a lot of Bears fans would want to see Green as the one that’s released, he was guaranteed almost $1 million, and he continues to get the starts in preseason games which makes you think he’s spot is secured on the depth chart.
Robinson is Poles’ project, so I can’t see him being released although the argument could be made that he’s the one that should be stashed on the practice squad (and he’d probably make it) and Lewis shows so much speed on the edge, I just think the Bears will want him to boost the pass rush on third downs.
Justin Jones, Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens (4)
Practice Squad: Travis Bell
This group is pretty straightforward. With both Walker and Green’s abilities to bump inside, they don’t need as much depth here. They won’t have much depth at the true 1-tech nose tackle spot, but if Billings suffers an injury, Bell is an easy call up as he’s looked pretty good in preseason.
Tremaine Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Dylan Cole, Mykal Walker (6)
Practice Squad: Micah Baskerville
Ryan Poles has put a lot of effort into finding some quality at the bottom of this position group which makes me think they want six linebackers on the 53-man roster. The bottom of this position group is going to be important to the Bears’ special teams so I think six are kept here.
If Dylan Cole isn’t healthy, I think that Baskerville makes the 53. Cole has missed time, but he’s a very good special teamer and I think as long as he can be on the field, he will be a part of this team.
Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson, Kyler Gordon, Terell Smith, Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones (6)
Practice Squad: Greg Stroman, Michael Ojemudia
I think the top five here are locks and the sixth spot is up for grabs. Jones has been banged up, but he’s a key special teamer for them so as long as he’s healthy, I think he makes the roster. Ojemudia has some experience, and I think would probably grab the sixth spot if Jones is a no-go.
Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks (3)
Practice Squad: AJ Thomas, Kendall Williamson
Most teams keep four safeties, but the Bears just don’t have room for it (or the talent). Hicks is pretty clearly the third safety on this team, and while he’s improved, if either of the starters go down, Hicks out there for 100% of the defensive snaps is a scary proposition if you ask me.
Thomas and Williamson can slide to the practice squad giving them five available safeties, and Terell Smith also has seen a few reps back there which makes me think he will be the emergency safety on the active roster if the Bears have a catastrophe and both starters are hurt in the same game.
Bralen Trahan has played well, but the practice squad is full, and I just don’t see a spot for him on the team.
Again, this projection lacks the addition of any waiver claims which I expect there to be, and would therefore drop a couple of these names off the roster, but while this roster still has holes, it’s the deepest roster the Bears have had in some time.