Let’s get this out of the way now: Trying to project the Bears’ 53-man roster is probably a futile activity. Odds are, at least a few members of their opening day roster are playing for other teams, waiting for Saturday’s cut deadline.
Still, laying out the Bears roster, and who is likely to be on it, paints a picture — of who’s on the team, who’s in flux, and how the two affect each other.
At midday Friday, here’s how we see the roster shaping up:
In: Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen
Out: David Fales, Zac Dysert
Why: The bet here is that Clausen, who threw on the field Thursday before the preseason finale, is recovered from his concussion in time for the Packers game. If so, the Bears don’t need three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster; they’ll cut both Fales and Dysert and hope to get one — Dysert? — back on the practice squad.
Running back (4)
In: Matt Forte, Jacquizz Rodgers, Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey
Why: Carey might be the hardest decision on the whole roster. Senorise Perry’s Injured Reserve designation opened, in theory, a spot on the running back depth chart. That said, Perry was never going to run the ball, just providing special teams depth. Carey’s no special teams whiz.
Wide receiver (5)
In: Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson, Josh Bellamy, Marc Mariani
Out: Rashad Lawrence, A.J. Cruz, Cameron Meredith, Ify Umodu
Why: If — and it’s a big if — the Bears think their top three receivers will play in Week 1, they’ll keep five receivers and add Lawrence or Umodu to the practice squad as insurance. If it’s more unclear, don’t discount the team taking a look at a player from around the league with experience in a similar offense.
Tight end (4)
In: Martellus Bennett, Dante Rosario, Khari Lee, Zach Miller
Out: Gannon Sinclair, Bear Pascoe
Why: Bennett is the clear No. 1 and Rosario provides special teams value. The Bears traded for Lee this week. Zach Miller was held out Thursday night, a good indication he’s made the team.
Offensive line (9)
In: Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Will Montgomery, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Hroniss Grasu, Charles Leno Jr., Vladimir Ducasse, Tayo Fabuluje
Out: Tyler Moore, Conor Boffeli, Michael Ola
Why: I have zero faith in my guess of their ninth guy; signing someone off the street will be an option, too. Given Bushrod’s balky back and inconsistency at right tackle, the Bears have to be looking hard for someone who can play outside. Maybe it’s Ola, though his late participation Thursday might indicate otherwise.
Defensive line (6)
In: Jarvis Jenkins, Eddie Goldman, Ego Ferguson, Brandon Dunn, Will Sutton, Cornelius Washington
Out: Terry Williams, David Carter
Why: Jeremiah Ratliff is suspended, so he won’t need to be included on the 53-man. The tough call here is Terry Williams, the “Swamp Monster,” who the Bears will try to keep on the practice squad.
Inside linebacker (5)
In: Shea McClellin, Christian Jones, Mason Foster, John Timu, Jon Bostic
Out: Matthew Wells, Jonathan Anderson
Why: The battle here is Wells vs. Bostic. The Bears traded for the former, and the latter has looked hampered all camp. Bostic’s special teams versatility could outweigh his struggles at linebacker — but his injuries might be too hard for the Bears to ignore. Timu, another special teamer, becomes more necessary because of the Perry injury.
Outside linebacker (6)
In: Jared Allen, Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Sam Acho, David Bass
Out: Kyle Woestmann
Why: Yes, keeping 11 linebackers is too many. But Young is too talented for the Bears to walk away from, even if there’s no guarantee that he’s a great system fit. The Bears have the money to keep him, too, even if he’ll make over $2 million. The Bears will hope to get Woestmann back on the practice squad to give their older unit some insurance.
In: Kyle Fuller, Alan Ball, Terrance Mitchell, Sherrick McManis, Demontre Hurst
Out: Qumain Black, Bryce Callahan, Jacoby Glenn, Tracy Porter
Why: Porter is the one name on the cut list with experience, but if he can’t stay healthy, what value does he have?
In: Antrel Rolle, Adrian Amos, Brock Vereen, Sherrod Martin
Out: Anthony Jefferson
Why: Hurst’s ability to play safety — he started there Thursday — gives the Bears some flexibility. Is Martin better than, say, Porter? We say yes, for now, though an outsider could come in and claim a spot, too.
In: kicker Robbie Gould, punter Pat O’Donnell, snapper Thomas Gafford
Why: They’re good, and all the competition has already been cut.
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