Early Projections for Chicago Bears' Final 53-Man Roster

Matt Eurich@@MattEurichAnalyst IMay 18, 2014

Early Projections for Chicago Bears' Final 53-Man Roster

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    Now that the 2014 NFL draft is officially over, NFL teams will be moving forward and trying to determine which 53 players will make their final roster.

    The Chicago Bears were very active in free agency, signing Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Ryan Mundy to help improve their porous defense from 2014. With the team's additions via free agency and the draft, the current roster has been maxed out.

    The roster currently sits at the NFL limit of 90 players. Throughout the coming weeks and months, many names on the roster will be taken off and added as general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman try to determine which players will best help the team moving forward.

    While many things can change between now and the end of the preseason, here are our early projections for the Chicago Bears' 53-man roster.

Quarterbacks (3)

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    USA TODAY Sports
    1. Jay Cutler
    2. Jordan Palmer
    3. David Fales (Rookie) 

    This is likely the easiest of all of the position groups in terms of who is going to make the roster in 2014.

    Jay Cutler signed a seven-year deal this offseason and will look to build off a strong but injury-filled season in 2013.

    The team lost 2013 backup Josh McCown in free agency to Tampa Bay but appears content with Jordan Palmer as the No. 2.

    Phil Emery said he told Jordan Palmer the same thing he told Josh McCown last year: He’s comfortable with him as the backup QB. #Bears

    — Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) May 1, 2014

    Chicago drafted David Fales in the sixth round, and he will compete with Jerrod Johnson to be the third quarterback. As long as Fales does not fall flat on his face, it seems unlikely that Johnson will make the roster over him in 2014. 

Running Backs (5)

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    1. Matt Forte
    2. Ka'Deem Carey (Rookie) 
    3. Michael Ford
    4. Jordan Lynch (Rookie)
    5. Tony Fiammetta (Fullback)

    Three spots at the running back position appear to be givens: Matt Forte, rookie Ka'Deem Carey and fullback Tony Fiammetta.

    After those three, the final few spots are wide open.

    The team only carried three running backs and one fullback last season, but because of Michael Ford's abilities as a return man, he will likely make the roster.

    The Bears may view Ford as the best option as the third running back behind Forte and Carey, but he may have stronger competition than expected from undrafted rookie Jordan Lynch.

    Lynch, a converted quarterback, looked the part of a running back at the rookie minicamp over this past weekend.

    #Bears head coach Marc Trestman on NIU Jordan Lynch making move from QB to RB: "He didn't look out of place. He's a real football player."

    — Bob LeGere (@BobLeGere) May 16, 2014

    It may be an uphill climb for Lynch, but if the Bears can find ways to get him on the field in different offensive packages, he may carve out a niche for himself.

    If nothing else, he will need to prove he can be a contributor on special teams in order to lock down a roster spot. 

Wide Receivers (5)

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    1.  Brandon Marshall
    2.  Alshon Jeffery
    3.  Marquess Wilson
    4.  Josh Morgan
    5.  Domenik Hixon

    There is little doubt that 2013 Pro Bowlers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will once again be a force to reckon with in the NFC North in 2014.

    While Marshall and Jeffery stand atop the wide receiver depth chart, the remaining handful of spots at the position are still open.

    Second-year man Marquess Wilson appears to have the inside track to the third wide receiver job, but veterans Josh Morgan and Domenik Hixon should provide ample competition at the position.

    If Wilson should stumble in training camp, Morgan appears to be the next logical choice to overtake the third wide receiver position.

    In six NFL seasons Morgan has caught 199 passes for 2,488 yards and 11 touchdowns. 2010 was his most productive season, catching 44 passes for 698 yards and two touchdowns.

    While not overly explosive, Morgan is a cheaper version of Earl Bennett and can be a reliable target on third downs.

    Hixon will likely play major role on special teams as a kick returner but has shown the ability to be effective in the passing game when given the opportunity.

Tight Ends (2)

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    1. Martellus Bennett
    2. Dante Rosario 

    The Bears spent the majority of the 2013 season with just two tight ends on their active 53-man roster.

    Martellus Bennett returns as the starting tight and will look to build off his impressive 2013 season, when he caught 65 passes for 759 yards with five touchdowns.

    Dante Rosario was acquired in a trade last season and spent most of his time on special teams. He did get onto the field at times as a blocking tight end. He should reclaim that role again this season.

    One reason the Bears will likely only keep two tight ends on the roster is because of the way they use offensive lineman Eben Britton. He played extensively during the 2013 season as a tight end/extra blocker, and he will likely resume that role in 2014. 

    The biggest battle will likely be between Rosario and Matthew Mulligan, but Rosario's familiarity with the system may be enough to keep him on the roster.

    If the team wants to have another receiving option at the position, Fendi Onobun is an option, but he will need to prove that he has developed as a receiver this offseason. 

Offensive Line (10)

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    1. Jermon Bushrod
    2. Matt Slauson
    3. Roberto Garza
    4. Kyle Long
    5. Jordan Mills
    6. Brian de la Puente
    7. Eben Britton
    8. Ryan Groy (Rookie)
    9. James Brown
    10. Joe Long

    2013 starters Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, along with backups Brian de la Puente and Eben Britton, are all virtual locks to make the roster in 2014.

    With seven of the projected spots already taken, the final three offensive line spots will be a battle to watch this offseason.

    The Bears have been high on James Brown since he joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but he has yet to take that next step. His versatility at both tackle and guard will likely give him one of the final roster spots along the offensive line. 

    Undrafted free agent Ryan Groy also has the versatility to play multiple positions along the offensive line but is still very raw. If he can develop this offseason, he has the potential be a steal for the Bears.

    Lastly, Joe Long spent time on the 53-man roster last season, and the team appears to be high on him and his abilities as a backup at left tackle. The brother of St. Louis Rams left tackle Jake Long, he has the athleticism for the position but will need to continue to improve his technique. 

Defensive Line (10)

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    1. Lamarr Houston
    2. Jared Allen
    3. Willie Young
    4. Jeremiah Ratliff
    5. Ego Ferguson (Rookie)
    6. Will Sutton (Rookie)
    7. Nate Collins
    8. Stephen Paea
    9. David Bass
    10. Cornelius Washington

    The Bears defensive line was one of the worst in football last season. Phil Emery and the Bears made it their goal to get better up front and did so in both free agency and the draft.

    Recently signed free agents Lamar Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young will all be major contributors at the defensive end position in 2014 after the departure of Julius Peppers in free agency. 

    At the defensive tackle position, the team added more depth to the trio of Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins by drafted Ego Ferguson in the second round and Will Sutton in the third round earlier this month. 

    Veteran defensive tackle/defensive end Israel Idonije will battle for a spot, but the emergence of David Bass last season and 2013 sixth-round pick Cornelius Washington still on the roster, Idonije likely will be left as the odd man out.

Linebackers (6)

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    1. Lance Briggs
    2. Shea McClellin
    3. Jon Bostic
    4. D.J. Williams
    5. Christian Jones (Rookie)
    6. Khaseem Greene

    General manager Phil Emery made it clear that only one linebacker spot is a given heading into the 2014 season:

    Emery on LB position: "Best players win." Lance Briggs is the only one that has a starting job right now.

    — Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) May 11, 2014

    Briggs, D.J. Williams, Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin all appear to be locks for the roster.

    Williams will likely reclaim his role as the starting middle linebacker, while Bostic and McClellin are expected to compete at the strong-side linebacker position. 

    Despite a rough rookie season in 2013, former fourth-round pick Khaseem Greene should make the roster. He has the ability to provide good depth at both strong-side and weak-side linebacker. He will also be expected to be a major contributor on special teams. 

    The final spot was up in question before the draft began, but after Chicago snagged former Florida State linebacker Christian Jones as an undrafted free agent, he appears to be the front-runner for the final linebacker spot.

    He reportedly failed a drug test at the NFL combine in February, which likely caused him to go undrafted. He has tremendous upside and stands an outside shot of competing with Bostic and McClellin for the strong-side linebacker position. 

Cornerbacks (5)

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    1. Charles Tillman
    2. Tim Jennings
    3. Kyle Fuller (Rookie)
    4. Isaiah Frey
    5. Kelvin Hayden

    Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and rookie Kyle Fuller are all locks to make the final roster in 2014.

    Tillman and Jennings will both try to get back to Pro Bowl form next season, and they will benefit from having Fuller at the nickelback position. Even though he will be listed as the team's No. 3 cornerback, he should see extensive playing time.

    FYI, assuming Kyle Fuller is your No. 3 corner next season, Isaiah Frey was on the field with the nickel 48.8 percent of snaps last season.

    — Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) May 9, 2014

    Isaiah Frey and Kelvin Hayden both seem like logical choices to make the roster. Frey played all 16 games last season as the nickelback, and Hayden has experience as both a starter and a nickelback.

    Hayden has proved himself as a special teams contributor in the past, and if Frey wants to stick, he'll have to show he can be a contributor too.

    Sherrick McManis may be the only other cornerback who could push for Frey's spot because of his stellar contributions on special teams over the past couple of seasons.

Safeties (4)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
    1. Ryan Mundy
    2. Brock Vereen (Rookie)
    3. Chris Conte
    4. Craig Steltz 

    The Bears knew that the safety position was a weakness heading into the 2014 offseason, yet they did very little in free agency to improve it.

    Instead of signing one of the big-name free agents like T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd, the team opted to sign veterans Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings.

    Mundy will likely wind up being the starter at strong safety, while free safety appears to be wide open.

    According to general manager Phil Emery, 2013 starter Chris Conte may start training camp on the PUP list, but he should be ready for the start of the preseason.

    "Yes, he may be on PUP [to start training camp]," Emery said of Conte to the media last week, per ESPN.com. "But in terms of that first preseason game, we expect him to be [ready]. Obviously we're talking about a healing and rehab process. It's always a little bit of a non-predictor, but our best-guessed estimate and medical evidence would say that he'll be ready for the first preseason game." 

    With Conte sidelined, rookie Brock Vereen will likely compete with Jennings to be the starting free safety. While Jennings has experience, he struggled in Green Bay, and Vereen gives the team a much higher upside at the position.

    Despite his struggles, Conte will likely remain with the team in 2014 if he can get back on the field during the preseason.

    Chicago carried four safeties last season, and Craig Steltz's experience as a starter and contributor on special teams should help him claim the final spot in 2014. 

Special Teams (3)

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    1. Robbie Gould (Kicker)
    2. Pat O'Donnell (Punter)
    3. Brandon Hartson (Long snapper)

    Veteran kicker Robbie Gould was signed to an extension just prior to the end of the 2013 and will be the starter through the 2017 season. 

    While the kicker position is set in stone, both the punter and long snapper positions have questions heading into training camp.

    Sixth-round pick Pat O'Donnell will compete with Tress Way and Drew Butler for the team's punter position during minicamps and training camp. O'Donnell appears to be the odds-on favorite to land the position.

    For the past 16 seasons, Patrick Mannelly has been a mainstay at the long snapper position, but his future with the team is currently up in the air. He underwent hip surgery following the 2013 season, leaving his return in question.

    "I’ll be 39 this year, I don’t know if I’m going to be back," Mannelly said in April, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times.  

    The Bears signed Brandon Hartson and Chad Rempel to compete as Mannelly's potential replacement. If he does not return, Hartson and Rempel will battle in training camp to take the job.