Chicago Bears: 10 Players Firmly on the Roster Bubble
The Chicago Bears roster appears to be set heading into training camp, so it's time to look at some players who may not make the final cut.
As of now, it looks like the Bears will enter camp with big numbers at a few positions. They have 12 wide receivers, 10 linebackers, eight safeties, eight cornerbacks, eight defensive tackles and seven defensive ends under contract. All of those numbers figure to get tripped, some of them in half.
For this list, I tried to focus on players who are truly on the bubble. I don't have any undrafted rookies simply because they are typically long shots to make the team.
I did include a couple veteran free agents, a few players projected to be starters and several veterans who played key roles last season.
The general thought is that teams like to keep the best 53 players on their roster at the end of the season, but it never works out that way. To make the team, players have to be able to do multiple things well. In most cases that includes playing special teams.
The Bears will have some interesting battles at receiver, linebacker along the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary this season. Here is a look at some of the players who will need an impressive camp to make the cut.
Blake Costanzo, LB
Costanzo was solid on the Bears special teams units last year and showed he could step in and play in their base defense in a pinch. Since then, however, the Bears added a lot to the position, which could leave him out of a job.
Lance Briggs is guaranteed a roster spot. With the signings of D.J. Williams and James Anderson, as well as the drafting of Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, that puts the Bears at five linebackers who are likely going to make the team.
It's unknown how many linebackers the Bears plan on keeping, but it seems unlikely that they'd keep more than six. That would put Costanzo in a battle with a number of younger players including returning players J.T. Thomas and Patrick Trahan.
Ultimately, Costanzo's job could depend on what happens within the team's top five linebackers. Should one of the veterans be beaten out by a rookie, it would help Costanzo's cause.
Armando Allen, RB
For the past couple of years, it was Allen who was the young, hard-working running back fighting for a roster spot. Now he's the veteran looking to fend off a challenger.
Undrafted rookie Michael Ford looks the part. He has good size, is fast and showed flashes of being very good in college at LSU.
Allen was a solid special teams contributor last year, but he'll likely have to show more to make the team this year.
Both Allen and Ford showed the ability to return kicks in college. If Ford can equal Allen when it comes to blocking for others and covering kicks, it will come down to contributions within the offense.
Outside of a 46-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars last year, Allen has shown little to suggest he can be an every-down running back. He'll need to show some more this year or he could be looking for a new team.
Jonathan Scott, T
Scott is what most teams look for in a third offensive tackle, but he might not make the team.
He's a veteran who has played in big games and can play both tackle positions. He has a lot of value to the Bears, but he isn't the most talented player.
While Pro Football Focus (subscription required) only counted one sack against him, he gave up 14 hurries and five quarterback hits in five games. Despite the limited playing time, his hurry total was the third worst on the team.
While his experience and ability to play both tackle spots will likely help him, it isn't as big of a necessity this season. J'Marcus Webb is also capable of moving to the left side should Jermon Bushrod suffer an injury.
Should Scott get beaten out by rookie Jordan Mills or second-year player Cory Brandon, the Bears won't have any reason to keep him.
Craig Steltz, S
Steltz has also shown the ability to play in the secondary, but hasn't shown any consistency there. The Bears have added a lot of competition at the position, so he may need to show more to stick with the team.
Steltz has been a good special teams player, a trait that likely won't be lost on the new coaching staff. However, the Bears safety position figures to be as competitive as it has ever been. With the luck they had there over the years, they'll likely make sure they have players who can play the position as well as special teams.
The most notable free agent the Bears added was Tom Zbikowski, but they also have 2012 third-round pick Brandon Hardin returning from injury.
The Bears are probably only going to keep four or five safeties, so Steltz will have his work cut out for him. He'll be competing with not only Zbikowski and Hardin, but young players in Tom Nelson, Cyhl Quarles and Anthony Walters.
Kelvin Hayden , CB
Hayden is a veteran, but wherever he's been, the team has wanted an upgrade. He was a Lovie Smith favorite, which is how he got to the nickel corner job for the Bears in the first place. They chose to bring him back after missing out on Munnerlyn, but he should have competition for his job.
Sherrick McManis played mostly on special teams last year and 2012 sixth-round pick Isaiah Frey should get a longer look. The Bears also have undrafted rookies C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst.
Should any of them—or another defensive back—beat Hayden out for the job in the Bears nickel package, it seems unlikely that they'd keep him.
Josh McCown, QB
It's become standard operating procedure for NFL teams to keep a veteran backup and a developmental third string quarterback. That is how the Bears look now, but if McCown were to be beaten out by Matt Blanchard, he likely wouldn't make the team.
McCown has been better than most people think. He's played in 50 games in his career with over 1,100 attempts and nearly 7,000 yards. He played in eight or more games four times and had a passer rating above 69 each year. That doesn't sound good, but he's played for mostly awful teams.
In 2011, he appeared in three games for the Bears and was decent. He completed 63.6 percent of his passes, but threw four interceptions to two touchdowns. Ball security has always been an issue for him as he's thrown 44 career interceptions and fumbled 32 times.
If Blanchard shows he can handle the physical and mental challenges of the NFL game, he could get the backup job.
New coach Marc Trestman is considered a quarterback guru, those kinds of coaches typically prefer to keep players they can develop. McCown is 33 years old, which means his best days are likely behind him and they weren't even that good.
Devin Aromashodu, WR
At 29, Aromashodu remains a mystery.
He got Bears fans excited in 2009 when he caught 22 passes in their last four games. The next season he caught five passes in the season opener, but totaled just five more the rest of the way.
It was widely figured offensive coordinator Mike Martz didn't like him, but he was a legitimate NFL player. The Vikings were betting on that. They signed him after the 2010 season, but he caught just 37 passes in two seasons there.
Now, back with the Bears he figures to be battling a number of young players for a roster spot.
Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett are locks to make the team. Eric Weems figures to have a very good chance. That would leave Aromashodu battling 2013 seventh-round pick Marquess Wilson, Joe Anderson and a bunch of young, hungry players.
Hurting his cause is the fact that Aromashodu hasn't played a lot of special teams in his career. At 29, it seems unlikely he'll start doing so now.
James Anderson, LB
It might be a long shot, but don't be surprised if Anderson never plays a regular season game for the Bears.
I expect Anderson to be among the Bears' top five linebackers, but if he's fifth on that list, he may lose his roster spot to someone cheaper and more able to play special teams.
Right now the expectation is for Anderson to start. However, if Bostic is better than expected and they want to get him on the field, it would likely move Williams to Anderson's spot in the base defense. If the Bears also determine Greene is a better player, it would make it hard to justify keeping Anderson over someone who would make a bigger contribution on special teams and costs half as much.
Even if Anderson is the team's fourth best linebacker and Greene or Bostic is close, it wouldn't make much sense to absorb his cap hit of $1.25 million for someone who doesn't play.
Devin Hester, KR
The Bears have been very careful about the words they've chosen when discussing Devin Hester.
Coach Trestman and general manager Phil Emery have said Hester will "compete" to be the Bears' returner. That in no way guarantees he'll make the roster.
It's entirely possible that Hester will return to being the most electrifying return man in the history of the league, but if he doesn't, he probably won't have a job.
The Bears have other players who are more than capable of returning kicks. Eric Weems made the Pro Bowl in that role in 2010 and averaged 25.6 yards per kick return and 10.6 yards per punt return in his career before joining the Bears.
His kick return average is actually higher than Hester's career mark and his punt return average is less than two yards lower. If Weems can return kicks that well and cover kicks, it would make more sense to keep him than Hester, who will likely only return kicks.
Hester averaged just 8.3 yards per punt return last year. However, we've seen him drop off before. In 2008 and averaged 6.2 yards per punt return and just 7.8 in 2009. He rebounded with two great seasons, averaging 17.1 yards per return in 2010 and 16.2 in 2011, with five touchdowns.
This is a crucial year for Hester. If he's going to make the Hall of Fame—as many feel he should—he'll likely have to put together a few more great seasons.
Robbie Gould, K
Like Hester, Gould is among the best players in the history of the league at his position. Also like Hester, he's competing for his job entering this season.
It isn't uncommon for teams to bring in an extra leg for training camp, especially with kickers who are north of 30 years old. However, when the Bears signed kicker Austin Signor to a three-year deal, it raised some eyebrows.
Gould is coming off of a mysterious calf injury and, at 31 years old, his career could go either way at this point.
Despite kicking in "The Windy City" Gould has the sixth highest career field goal percentage mark. He was very good again last year, making 84 percent of his kicks, including both from beyond 50 yards. In fact, he's been excellent from beyond 50 yards, making 13 of his 15 attempts since 2009.
But the Bears brought Signor in and must have liked what they saw. The 26-year-old rookie from Eastern Illinois has yet to play in the NFL, so he may not be able to repeat that kind of showing he had in a tryout in an actual game. That's something the Bears should have made sure of before giving him more than a one-year deal.
If Gould is able to remain the kind of kicker he has been in his career with the Bears, he shouldn't have anything to worry about. However, Gould was an unknown before joining the Bears, so they may have struck gold again with Signor.