Report Card Grades for the Chicago Bears' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
The moment that the NFL draft ended this past Saturday night, NFL teams were hard at work trying to sign as many undrafted free agents as they could who would help fill needs that were not addressed in the draft's seven rounds.
Just as it is too early to know what sort of impact the Bears' eight draft picks will have, the same goes for the nine players that they signed as undrafted free agents.
All nine of these players will have an uphill battle to make the roster in 2014, but we can look at each signing and offer a grade based off of how that player fills a current need and how much value the team got by signing them as an undrafted free agent.
Because of the already low expectations placed on these players, no signing received a grade lower than a "C".
"A" and "B" grades were given to those players with the greatest chance of making an impact during training camp and possibly the 2014 season.
Here are our report card grades for each of the Chicago Bears' undrafted free-agent signings.
Jordan Lynch, Running Back, Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch is likely the biggest name that the Chicago Bears signed as an undrafted free agent.
Lynch burst onto the scene in 2013, throwing for 2,892 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushing 292 times for 1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns.
His strong senior season led to him being name a Heisman Trophy finalist, and he finished third in the voting.
While he was extremely productive at Northern Illinois, Lynch functioned primarily out of the shotgun and was more of a run-first quarterback.
Due to his stellar running ability, the team wants to move forward with him as a running back.
"You want as many athletes who can do as many things as possible, and he certainly presents options that way," GM Phil Emery said of Lynch to the media in a press conference. "But the thing that I was really impressed with (was) just his skill as a runner."
There will be a bit of a learning curve for Lynch transitioning to the running back position, but considering the way he played the quarterback position at NIU, the transition may go more smoothly than expected.
Lynch will likely be competing with second-year man Michael Ford and veteran Shaun Draughn for the team's third running back behind Matt Forte and fourth-round draft pick Ka'Deem Carey.
While the odds may be against him, the Bears appear to really like what Lynch can bring to the table and he appears to have a good chance to make the roster in 2014.
James Dunbar, Guard, TCU
The Chicago Bears did a nice job of addressing their porous offensive line during the 2013 offseason, signing Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson in free agency and drafting Kyle Long and Jordan Mills in the first and fifth rounds.
For a positional group that was once viewed as near the bottom of the league, the Bears offensive line quickly turned into one near the top in 2013.
After drafting Long and Mills in 2013, the team only spent one draft pick on an offensive lineman in 2014, nabbing Boise State's Charles Leno Jr.
The competition behind the projected starting offensive line will be highly competitive this offseason, but that didn't stop the Bears from signing TCU guard James Dunbar as an undrafted free agent.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Dunbar measures in at 6'5" and 311 pounds and was rated the 38th-best tackle in this year's draft.
Dunbar started all 12 games for the Horned Frogs in 2013. He made seven starts at left tackle and five at left guard.
The Bears were likely drawn to his versatility along the offensive line, but he will have a difficult time cracking the team's 53-man roster.
Lee Pegues, Defensive Tackle, East Carolina
East Carolina's Lee Pegues saw playing time at both defensive end and defensive tackle during his collegiate career, but he projects more as a defensive tackle in the NFL.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Pegues measured in at 6'2" and 291 pounds at his pro day. He also ran a 4.94-second 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times.
During his four-year career at East Carolina, Pegues registered 91 tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. His 2013 season was his most productive, registering 29 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Pegues is willing to work hard and he knows that starts with just being able to get his foot in the door.
"Whether I’m drafted or a free agent, anything would be great," Pegues told Lou Bezjak of SCNow.com prior to the draft. "My priority is looking to get my foot in the door."
Now that Pegues has his foot in the door, he will have to compete with the likes of Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea, Nate Collins, Israel Idonije and 2014 draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton for a spot on the roster.
If he can build off of his strong 2013 season, he may be able to find a spot on the team's practice squad this season.
Brandon Dunn, Defensive Tackle, Louisville
The Bears likely had the inside track on signing Louisville defensive tackle Brandon Dunn now that former Louisville defensive line coach Clint Hurtt is a member of the team's coaching staff.
Dunn measured in at the Louisville pro day at 6'2", 300 pounds and he ran a 5.16 40-yard dash, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
In three seasons with the Cardinals, Dunn registered 87 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks and two pass deflections.
(Dunn) is exceptionally durable and played a great deal of snaps for the Cards. Dunn does a nice job of holding point and freeing up his linebackers. He also has a fantastic attitude and plays with a great motor.
Due to the talent that is listed ahead of him on the depth chart, it is going to be a struggle for Dunn to be anything more than a practice squad player for the Bears in 2014.
Christian Jones, Linebacker, Florida State
One of the most surprising players to not get drafted, Florida State linebacker Christian Jones' likely reason for falling off of teams' draft boards was due to reportedly failing a drug test at the NFL combine in February.
#Bears signing FSU LB Christian Jones as UFA would have been considered impossible not long ago. Projected 2nd/3rd rd.by Nawrocki guide.— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein) May 11, 2014
In CBSSports.com's overview of Jones, Dane Brugler was high on his athletic ability, writing:
Tremendous athlete with has fluid footwork who flawlessly flips his hips to blanket tight ends or receivers down the field in coverage. Tall and long, which he uses well in coverage. Plays with excellent range and speed to chase down the action, taking proper angles in pursuit. Flashes the take-on strength to blow past blockers when he uses proper technique.
In four seasons with the Seminoles, Jones racked up 223 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, eight sacks, one interception and forced two fumbles.
Jones' skill set lends well to a Bears defense that still has not quite defined what it wants to be in 2014. Jones can play either outside linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense but also has the ability to rush the quarterback as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
General manager Phil Emery has already discussed that the linebacker competition is going to be wide open with Lance Briggs as the only given as a starter in 2014, leaving open an opportunity for Jones to make an impact.
Out of all of the undrafted free agents the Bears signed, Jones may have the best chance of being a major contributor in 2014.
DeDe Lattimore, Linebacker, South Florida
While there were some character concerns that likely caused Christian Jones to fall out of the draft, South Florida's DeDe Lattimore likely dropped due to concerns over his limitations in pass coverage.
Lattimore is an aggressive linebacker who split time at both weak-side and middle linebacker while playing for the Bulls.
CBSSports.com's Rob Rang thinks Lattimore's aggressiveness and physicality are two of the biggest strengths in his game:
A thick, compact and muscular athlete, Lattimore exhibits big-time first step explosiveness, agility and space, and plays with ideal aggression and physicality for the position. When lined up on the outside, he displays fluidity in space, and can be an absolute menace blitzing off the edge with his ability to get low around the corner, and close in a hurry. From the inside, he shows good diagnostics against the run and takes good angles to the football. In coverage, he displays good recognition and an ability to track receiver movement while maintaining an eye on the backfield, and looks plenty quick in the hips when asked to flip and run.
Lattimore is the type of player that coaches will fall in love with because of his aggressiveness and effort.
He may be able to carve out a niche as a special teams contributor, but he seems more likely to a be project for the Bears staff who can learn and develop on the practice squad.
Tana Patrick, Linebacker, Alabama
Alabama linebacker Tana Patrick had a tough time trying to find playing time in the crowded Alabama linebacker corps during his four-year career.
He was ranked as the 67th-best high school prospect in 2008 by Rivals100 (via RollTide.com), but he struggled to get onto the field as anything more than a special teams contributor.
He amassed just 39 tackles during his four seasons in Tuscaloosa.
Despite not being invited to the NFL combine, Patrick did participate in Alabama's pro day. He showed off as size and athleticism, measuring in at 6'2" and 243 pounds and running a 4.67 40-yard dash, per NFLDraftScout.com.
While the team has a need at the linebacker position and help on special teams, it appears unlikely that Patrick will be able to push for anything more than a spot on the practice squad.
Ryan Groy, Guard, Wisconsin
While fellow undrafted free-agent offensive lineman James Dunbar has a big uphill battle to make the Bears roster, Wisconsin's Ryan Groy may have a legitimate shot.
Groy has exceptional size and measured in at the combine at 6'5", 316 pounds and ran a 5.19 40-yard dash.
He started 27 games over the past two seasons for the Badgers and was a First Team All-Big Ten selection in 2013.
NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki believes Groy could be a starter, writing:
Big, durable, blue-collar guard who is generally effective despite lacking exceptional physical traits. As a starter, is the type you look to replace, but could be serviceable backup in a slide-protection scheme given his size, intelligence and functional anchor.
The Bears likely signed Groy because of his versatility along the offensive line:
Another UDFA signing: Ryan Groy to the Chicago Bears. Gotta think his versatility will keep him on a NFL roster.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) May 11, 2014
He showed that versatility while at Wisconsin, making starts at left tackle, left guard, center and fullback.
While the starting five along the offensive line and a couple of backup roles are already set, Groy has the type of skill set that lends well to the Bears offense and he could fill multiple roles.
Cody Booth, Tackle, Temple
Initially recruited as a tight end, Temple's Cody Booth transitioned to the left tackle position for his senior season in 2013.
He measured in at 6'4" and 292 pounds at his pro day and ran a 5.35 40-yard dash, per NFLDraftScout.com.
He is similar to former Temple and Bears alum Steve Maneri. Maneri played tight end at Temple before transitioning into an offensive tackle/tight end hybrid in the NFL. He played in four games for the Bears last season before being released.
The Bears utilized Eben Britton as a tight end and extra tackle last season, and the team may view Booth as a potential replacement for Britton beyond the 2014 season.
If Booth can prove that he can be a willing and capable blocker, he has a chance of making this roster as the team's blocking tight end, but it appears more likely that he will wind up on the team's practice squad.