Bears sign WR DeAndre Carter to compete for punt returner job

Carter averaged 9.7 yards per punt return for the Raiders last year. In 2022 with the Chargers, he averaged 11.7, which ranked second in the NFL.

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Chicago Bears wide receiver DeAndre Carter fumbles a football

The Bears’ DeAndre Carter fumbles the ball during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 27, 2020.

James Gilbert/Getty

The Bears might have found their punt returner Tuesday when they signed veteran receiver DeAndre Carter to a one-year deal.

Carter averaged 9.7 yards per punt return for the Raiders last year. In 2022, he averaged 11.7 as a member of the Chargers, which ranked second in the NFL. The well-traveled 31-year-old — he’s played for six different teams in six years, including the Bears for four games in 2020 — has averaged 9.8 yards per return over 132 career punt returns. His 1,294 punt return yards are the second most in the NFL over the past six seasons.

The Bears were left without their regular punt returner when Trent Taylor, who averaged 8.2 yards return last season, signed with the 49ers in April.

The Bears tried first-round pick Rome Odunze at punt returner during mandatory minicamp, but he is probably too valuable to return punts regularly. He tried it three times in college, taking one punt 83 yards for a touchdown.

“I practiced it every day,” Odunze said last week. “I didn’t get a ton of reps in actual games. Would’ve loved to get more of those, but I think it’s just another opportunity for me to shine and for me to add value to the team. I feel like I do it at a high level, so continue to grow with that, continue to find the technique of it, especially at this level … If I can contribute in any facet in the return game, I’m all for it.”

The Bears also have veteran Dante Pettis and second-year receiver Tyler Scott as options to return punts.

Carter has returned 118 kickoffs, too, but the Sacramento State alum figures to be behind Velus Jones on the depth chart entering next month’s training camp. Bears rookies will report to Halas Hall on July 16, the NFL announced Tuesday, with veterans arriving three days later.

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