Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles, coach Matt Eberflus and their staffs got to work trimming the roster Sunday with two major moves — cutting backup quarterback P.J. Walker and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood.
But the Bears still have many more moves to announce ahead of Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline to reduce the roster to 53 players.
Aside from injury considerations, most of the Bears starters are set, but there are several questions at the back end of the roster as they continue to cut players — and then scour the waiver wire for new additions.
1. Who will the Bears keep at defensive end?
Rasheem Green, Dominique Robinson, Terrell Lewis and Trevis Gipson have been fighting for those roles — and making some big plays while doing it. Lewis led the Bears with three sacks and two forced fumbles in the preseason as he made his case to stay on the roster.
“I try not to think small. I always think big,” Lewis said last week. “I never have the mindset of I’m trying to make the team. I keep the mindset of I know I belong in this league, I know I should be on a team.”
Robinson, the 2022 fifth-round pick who converted to defense midway through his college career, is still growing and the Bears could want to see that through. Gipson, whom the former Bears regime drafted in the fifth round in 2020, had two sacks and four quarterback hits in the preseason, including a strip-sack Saturday against the Bills. But it appears he could be on his way out after ESPN reported the Bears gave him permission to seek a trade.
Considering Walker has missed much of training camp with an injury, could that be the only cut of the four the Bears make?
2. Where do Tyson Bagent and Nathan Peterman stand after the release of Walker?
The Bears decided to part with Walker after he struggled in the preseason, despite a contract that had $2 million in guaranteed money.
That leaves Bagent and Peterman as the two options currently on the roster to back up starter Justin Fields.
Will Poles declare Bagent the No. 2 quarterback and put Peterman on the practice squad?
Bagent, an undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd, surprised some with his poised preseason performances. He said after Saturday’s game he believes he proved this preseason that he belongs in the league. But he stopped short of saying he should make the Bears team.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I feel like I put my best foot forward every day, and I worked really hard at this, but that will be up to them whether that was enough or not.”
3. How will the Bears wide receivers depth shake out?
Behind those three, there are some questions about who will get opportunities among a group that includes Velus Jones Jr., rookie Tyler Scott, Equanimeous St. Brown, Nsimba Webster and Daurice Fountain.
Scott, whom the Bears drafted in the fourth round, always seemed like a lock. Jones’ value as a kick returner, and the Bears’ hope he can make progress on offense and perhaps punt returns in his second season, has helped his case. St. Brown has value as a blocker and as someone who knows Getsy’s offense well.
“I always keep the same mindset every year,” St. Brown said. “Train hard in the offseason, come in, ball out, do the best that I can. Help the team win.”
When the Bears placed Dante Pettis on injured reserve last week, it made the situation a little clearer. Pettis had special teams value because he could return punts, but his injury probably made the decision to keep Scott, Jones and St. Brown easier.
Is there anything that could change that?
4. How do the Bears see their running back depth chart?
While Khalil Herbert took most of the first-team reps during training camp and the preseason, the Bears have said they’re going to go with running back by committee, with a group that could include D’Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson.
Foreman had 203 carries for 914 yards in a breakout season for the Carolina Panthers in 2022 and signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Bears this offseason. The idea he could be a cut candidate was floated by some because of the promise Johnson has shown and the known production Herbert brings. But Foreman, who went to the injury tent during Saturday’s game, said last week his previous play speaks for itself.
“I don’t think they’ve seen enough of what I can really do,” Foreman said of the outside notion he won’t get the role he wants on the team.
“They’ve got to really go back and watch me last year to see me really be effective. Playing in the two preseason games (before Saturday) that I played in I probably got the ball maybe seven times total. So, OK. But I think what I bring to the table, my teammates and coaches, they know that.”
Khari Blasingame will return as the Bears fullback, and Travis Homer, who brings special teams prowess, is the other likely to make the roster. Trestan Ebner, who has been out with an injury, is a player who might be the odd man out.
5. Will there be any surprise additions to the roster?
A couple of key injuries to Bears players Saturday make the depth decisions in their position groups interesting.
The Bears have had a flood of injuries and absences on the offensive line, with Cody Whitehair moving to left guard while playing through a hand injury, Teven Jenkins out for an extended time with a right leg injury and Lucas Patrick, Nate Davis and Darnell Wright sitting out last week. On top of that, the Bears made a somewhat surprising move in releasing Leatherwood, who had been a backup at guard. What does that mean for the Bears roster needs as they head into cuts day?
If Sewell’s injury is serious — and Eberflus said the Bears still were determining that Saturday night — does that pave the way for another linebacker to make the roster?
And of course, after the Bears set their roster Tuesday, there are bound to be more changes as they look at adding players off waivers.
“We’re going to be active looking at the best situation for the Bears,” Eberflus said. “We’re in a good spot there. We are going to be very open-minded with that and do what’s best for us, and we’ll see what happens.”