The Chicago Bears haven’t stopped making additions to their roster with the preseason on the horizon. This week, the Bears augmented their pass-rushing unit and tight end room by adding veterans Yannick Ngakoue and Marcedes Lewis on one-year deals. Let’s run through Chicago’s 90-man roster and project how Ngakoue, Lewis, and the rest of the club’s depth chart will shake out before the NFL‘s Aug. 29 cutdown deadline.
Chicago Bears 53-Man Roster Projection
- In: Justin Fields, PJ Walker
- Out: Nathan Peterman, Tyson Bagent
Fields is facing a potential make-or-break season in 2023, as the Bears have more than enough draft capital to target another quarterback in next year’s draft. Already one of the NFL’s most dynamic threats on the ground, Fields needs to take a significant leap forward as a passer to ensure his status as Chicago’s franchise quarterback.
NFL teams often like to roster backup QBs with skill sets similar to that of their starter, and Walker could offer a reasonable Fields facsimile as a rusher were he called into action. The Bears are unlikely to keep a third quarterback on their 53-man roster, but they could retain Bagent — a Division II rookie who played college football at Shepherd — on their practice squad.
- In: Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame (FB)
- Out: Robert Burns (FB), Trestan Ebner
The Bears’ backfield is wide open following the offseason departure of free agent David Montgomery. Herbert and Foreman have been splitting reps with Chicago’s first-team offense and could form a committee, at least early in the season.
However, neither Herbert nor Foreman is much of a receiver, which could create an opening for Johnson or Homer to contribute in the passing game. Johnson is a roster lock as a fourth-round pick, while Homer will have to fight off Ebner during the preseason. Both are solid pass catchers, but Homer gets the nod due to his work on special teams.
- In: DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Equamineous St. Brown
- Out: Aaron Cruickshank, Isaiah Ford, Daurice Fountain, Dante Pettis, Joe Reed, Nsimba Webster
Moore, the Bears’ new No. 1 WR, has already demonstrated tremendous chemistry with Fields through the summer. Fields is the best quarterback Moore has worked with since his days catching passes from Cam Newton with the Panthers.
Mooney appears to have passed Claypool on Chicago’s depth chart and should be the clear WR2 in “12” personnel. But given that the Bears deployed three-WR sets on 60% of their plays in 2022, Claypool should have plenty of opportunities, even if he’s third on Chicago’s depth chart.
Chicago doesn’t have a ton of drama beyond Claypool. Jones Jr. could become a surprise cut after he failed to deliver results during his rookie season, but the Bears’ only realistic option to replace him is Pettis, a journeyman who hasn’t reached 20 receptions since 2018. While Jones needs to improve, Chicago is unlikely to give up on a third-round pick after only one year.
- In: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis
- Out: Chase Allen, Stephen Carlson, Jared Pinkney, Jake Tonges
Kmet recently inked a four-year extension which will tie him to the Bears through the 2027 campaign. Meanwhile, Chicago has a pair of former Packers tight ends up next on their depth chart. Tonyan should be a viable receiving threat behind Kmet, while Lewis remains one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends as he enters his age-39 campaign.
- In: Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright, Lucas Patrick, Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter, Alex Leatherwood
- Out: Aviante Collins, Kellen Diesch, Dieter Eiselen, Robert Haskins, Gabriel Houy, Doug Kramer, Josh Lugg
Wide receiver and linebacker are close, but there’s probably not a Bears position group that looks more improved than the offensive line. Chicago’s starting five appears set, with Jenkins and Whitehair shifting to new positions and Davis and Wright joining the roster as new additions.
Patrick should be the Bears’ top reserve on the interior. As a former Packer, he’s well-versed in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system. Borom and Leatherwood are Chicago’s best depth options at tackle, while Carter has received first-team reps at guard while Davis battles an injury.
- In: Justin Jones, Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens, Travis Bell
- Out: Andrew Brown, Bravvion Roy
The Bears obviously wanted to beef up their defensive interior and ultimately spent three draft picks to bring in Dexter, Pickens, and Bell. All three should make Chicago’s 53-man roster, even if Bell has to fight off Roy — a recent waiver claim from Carolina — for the fifth and final spot on the depth chart.
Jones is the only holdover from the 2022 campaign. He and Billings should open the season as starters, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if Dexter and Pickens see heavy rotational usage and become starting-caliber players by the end of the year.
- In: Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson, Rasheem Green
- Out: Jalen Harris, D’Anthony Jones, Terrell Lewis
The Bears finally added a veteran edge rusher by agreeing to a one-year deal with Ngakoue in early August. He’ll likely play starter’s snaps from the get-go, although his deficiencies as a run defender could ultimately limit him to obvious passing downs.
Ngakoue and Walker should see the majority of the playing time on the edge, but Gipson, Robinson, and Green will all be worked in, too. Lewis made our initial Bears projection, but the addition of Ngakoue will push him off the roster — he could still be a candidate for Chicago’s practice squad.
- In: Tremaine Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell, Dylan Cole
- Out: Micah Baskerville, Kuony Deng, DeMarquis Gates, Buddy Johnson
Edmunds will give Eberflus the big-bodied middle linebacker he’s been looking for in the center of his defense, while Edwards should have the chance to overperform his three-year, $19.5 million contract after a solid four-season run with the Eagles.
Sanborn will become an overqualified third linebacker who may only see time in base packages. However, he’s been banged up throughout the summer, leaving the door open for Sewell to take his reps during practice sessions. A fifth-round rookie, Sewell could fight for playing time if Sanborn can’t stay on the field.
- In: Jaylon Johnson, Tyrique Stevenson, Kyler Gordon, Kindle Vildor, Terell Smith, Jaylon Jones
- Out: Josh Blackwell, Michael Ojemudia, Greg Stroman Jr.
Johnson, who could earn a contract extension as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, profiles as the Bears’ top corner after missing six games a year ago. But the more interesting battle is on the other side of the field, where Chicago is holding an open competition between two rookies.
Stevenson looked like the early favorite to start after being selected in the second round, but Smith — a rookie fifth-rounder — has surprisingly held his own during camp. The Bills had a similar situation in 2022 when undrafted free agent CB Christian Benford outplayed first-round pick Kaiir Elam. Smith could make an identical leap into the starting lineup.
Vildor is due nearly $3 million in 2023, a decent chunk of change for a CB5. But the Bears don’t necessarily need the cap space, so we’re leaving him on the roster for now as an experienced veteran who can play on the outside.
- In: Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson
- Out: Macon Clark, Adrian Colbert, A.J. Thomas, Bralen Trahan
Jackson, the Bears’ longest-tenured defender, will return for his seventh season in Chicago after ending last year on injured reserve with a foot issue. He’ll be joined by Brisker, who lined up everywhere in 2022 and was far and away the Bears’ best rookie.
Hicks was a valuable special teamer after being selected in the seventh round of last year’s draft, and his role should be safe heading into next season. Williamson, Chicago’s 2023 seventh-rounder, will fight for the club’s fourth safety spot. But given how young the Bears’ secondary is, they could retain a veteran like Colbert, who has appeared in 41 NFL games and made 22 starts.
- In: Cairo Santos (K), Trenton Gill (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
- Out: Andre Szmyt (K)
Santos missed five extra points last year but failed to connect on just two field goal attempts, one of which was from 50+ yards. He’s entering the final season of his contract and is due to make $4 million in cash in 2023, which could make him a cut candidate. But Szmyt, Syracuse’s all-time leader in points, would need a dominant preseason performance to usurp the veteran kicker.