The Chicago Bears filled their final remaining roster spot on the 10-man practice squad by re-signing wide receiver Tanner Gentry after he cleared waivers. Gentry was released earlier in the week, just days after playing eight snaps in his NFL debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As expected, the Bears did not add another receiver to their mix through free agency. Instead, the team received some positive news internally when it announced receiver Markus Wheaton was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. It represents Wheaton’s first time practicing without an ailment. Wheaton missed practice during training camp because of an emergency appendectomy and later broke his pinkie finger while making a catch during a practice drill before the team closed up shop at Bourbonnais.
A healthy Wheaton made Gentry expendable, and his inexperience is among the reasons he was able to return to the practice squad without being claimed.
Still, it’s not as if the Bears didn’t operate without some risk. The team was already without starters Cameron Meredith and Kevin White, Rueben Randle was released after starting the year on injured reserve, and Wheaton, Josh Bellamy, and now Kendall Wright have all spent time on the regular season injury report. For the Bears to cut ties with a receiver like Gentry, who was familiar with their playbook and terminology, without having much behind him, was a gamble. And for the second time this summer, it’s one that has paid off.
Gentry’s return to the practice squad allows the Bears to develop him without taking up a spot on the 53-man roster, but he can still be signed by another team at any time. Which is precisely what happened with offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph, who was plucked by the Baltimore Ravens and added to their 53-man roster. Further, re-signing Gentry means the team has two receivers on the practice squad. Remember, the team signed Mario Alford last week after he had a tryout at Halas Hall.
Even with Gentry in the fold, the Bears are still short-handed at receiver. There isn’t much they can do – outside of an unforeseen blockbuster trade – to improve on the group currently taking reps with the team. But at least if something happens on the injury front, they’ll have a receiver who has been with the team since the spring who knows the ins and outs of the offense. Perhaps if he returns to the active roster, that knowledge will help him find the end zone.