A lot can change between now and when the NFL season kicks off, especially when it comes to the roster construction of each of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Of course, that includes a Bears team that spent a ton of time overhauling a roster that finished 3-13 in 2016.
Over at FanRag Sports, Dave Hogg takes a shot at projecting the Bears’ 53-man roster for the 2017 season. Injury, production (or lack of it), and roster moves made by other teams could influence how the Bears construct their roster (after all, Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton was a safe bet to open the 2016 season with the Green Bay Packers at this time last year).
So let’s jump right into Hogg’s early projections and attempt to make sense of the Bears’ situations at multiple positions:
- Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, Mark Sanchez
No surprises here as the three new additions to the quarterbacks room each make the cut. Sanchez over Connor Shaw for the third spot might be a training camp battle to watch, but there might not be one in the first place if Sanchez has a full recovery from the knee injury that sidelined him earlier this summer.
Running backs (4)
- Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham, Jeremy Langford
Cunningham and Langford making the 53-man cut would mean that special teams standout Ka’Deem Carey and undrafted free agent Joel Bouganon from Northern Illinois were left on the outside looking in. Undrafted free agent running backs come and go, but cutting ties with Carey would be a disappointment in a sense that the two-time All-American and 2013 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year never grasped the opportunity to be a playmaker on offense. Still, the Bears have the fourth best running back situation in the NFL right now.
- Michael Burton
Burton was signed off waivers from the Detroit Lions this offseason. Burton’s inclusion on the 53-man roster would mean the Bears would be employing a fullback again, edging out undrafted free agent Freddie Stevenson in the process – who was believed to be a front funner for that position after the team waived 2016 starter Paul Lasike.
Wide receivers (5)
- Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz
Three of the Bears’ free agent signings at the position make the team, per Hogg’s projection. However, that leaves one free agent (Rueben Randle), one undrafted free agent (Tanner Gentry), and three returning players (Daniel Braverman, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson) off the roster. Cameron Meredith steps up to the No. 1 spot vacated by Alshon Jeffery, while Kevin White slides into the second spot. Considering the fact that White, Wheaton, and Cruz each missed significant time due to injuries last season, it’s safe to say the Bears likely won’t use just five receivers this season.
Tight end (3)
- Zach Miller, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen
Daniel Brown could make a run at Miller’s job, which would complete a total overhaul of the position. However, Brown projects to fall short in Hogg’s eyes. If Miller fails to make the roster (or is moved), this position group would project to be awfully young with Sims (26), Brown (25), and Shaheen (23) splitting time. The Bears would also be losing one of their best pass catchers, as well as a high quality blocker on run and pass plays. MyCole Pruitt and Ben Braunecker would also be on the chopping block if this is how the tight end position played out after the preseason.
Offensive line (9)
- Tackles: Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie
- Guards: Kyle Long, Josh Sitton
- Centers: Cody Whitehair, Hroniss Grasu
- Reserves: Eric Kush, Bradley Sowell, Tom Compton
The first surprise of the early roster projection would be if fifth-round pick Jordan Morgan doesn’t make the team. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the former Division II left tackle is left off the roster, but it would be a rough look to cut a draft pick for a rebuilding team that should be maximizing the picks it has. Kush, Sowell, and Compton have experience at multiple positions, while Grasu (who is one of two former starters who could be on their way out) hopes to join them in that capacity in training camp after starting to play some guard during the Bears’ offseason training activities. Undrafted free agents Mitchell Kirsch and Dieugot Joseph also have their bubbles burst.
Defensive line (6)
- Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jaye Howard, Mitch Unrein, John Jenkins, Jonathan Bullard
It would be a bit of a surprise to see Rashaad Coward miss out, because he might be the most talented undrafted free agent on the Bears’ roster. Two free agent signings that might have flown under the radar (Howard, Jenkins) are viewed to be joining Vic Fangio’s defense. The same for returning players Mitch Unrein and 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard – both of whom struggled last season.
- Danny Trevathan*, Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Nick Kwiatkoski, Lamarr Houston, Jerrell Freeman, Christian Jones, Dan Skuta
You’ll notice the asterisk. Hogg has Trevathan opening the season on the physically unable to perform list. Players on the regular season PUP list are required to miss the first six games of the season, then enter a 21-day window in which the team decides whether or not it wants to activate the player and place him on the 53-man roster. Trevathan might miss some time while recovering from a season-ending knee injury, which would be unfortunate considering how important he is to the run defense.
The rest of the group of linebackers features a slew of familiar faces. Sam Acho is a notable exclusion from this 53-man roster projection.
- Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, Kyle Fuller, Cre’von LeBlanc, Bryce Callahan
It feels a bit light at the cornerback position, doesn’t it? B.W. Webb, who signed as a free agent, is an odd-man out at this position.
- Quintin Demps, Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Deon Bush, Harold Jones-Quartey, Deandre Houston-Carson
On the other hand, this group feels a bit crowded. However, Deiondre’ Hall doesn’t make it through on Hogg’s projection despite his attempt to move from cornerback to safety. Still, the Bears have some upside here with Demps and Jackson leading the way as newcomers.
- Connor Barth (place kicker), Pat O’Donnell (punter), Patrick Scales (long snapper)
Save for Coward, kicker Andy Phillips is the undrafted free agent with the best odds to make the team replacing Connor Barth – who made just 78.3 percent of his field goal attempts last season. There isn’t much competition at punter or long snapper.