Week 1 of the regular season is just around the corner, and excitement is hitting a fever pitch. The Chicago Bears will face the loathsome Green Bay Packers to kick off the season, and fans are more than ready to turn the page on the preseason and get ready for a long year of Chicago football.
Before the festivities begin, however, the Bears had to make some tough decisions to whittle down the roster to the NFL’s mandated 53 players. While the vast majority of players Chicago waived didn’t make too many headlines, the team did make a couple of surprise cuts.
From standout rookies to shocking releases that continue to strangle an already weak position, here are the team’s six most surprising cuts.
The Bears’ decision to part ways with Gipson is by far the most surprising cut the team made. The veteran defensive end had a strong preseason, notching two sacks and a forced fumble, causing the fanbase to believe Gipson had cemented himself a role as a rotation pass rusher.
Things were made complicated, however, when a surprising report came out during the Bears’ final preseason game, revealing that Gipson had requested a trade.
It was assumed that the front office would use his preseason performance as leverage in a trade, and the possibility of waiving Gipson and not gain anything was zero.
Well, it turns out that anything is possible, as Chicago elected to cut Gipson just before the deadline, creating confusion among Bears fans. To add even more fuel to the fire, Gipson shared that he did not request a trade.
Now, with the whirlwind of last-minute cuts calmed, we’re left with one pressing question: why? Why would general manager Ryan Poles allow a position of need, the defensive ends, get even weaker by letting Gipson go? It could be because Poles and the coaching staff didn’t believe Gipson could carry over his strong play into the regular season, or it could be related to the odd trade report that is allegedly not true.
Regardless of why it happened, Gipson’s career with the Bears is over, and his departure casts a long shadow over a disheveled pass-rushing unit.
The Bears continued its trend of gutting the pass-rusher group, electing to cut one of the MVPs of the preseason, Terrell Lewis.
Lewis was one of the few standouts among a poor edge rushing group, producing three sacks and one tackle-for-loss through three exhibition games.
The organizations’ decision to waive Lewis is a move that is truly hard to wrap your head around, considering the current state of the Bears’ pass rushers. Chicago parting ways with one integral defensive end was acceptable; letting two walk away leaves the defensive end group utterly barren. Outside of Yannick Ngakoue and DeMarcus Walker, the Bears now have no player capable of reliably getting to the quarterback.
Chicago claimed former Colts defensive end Khalid Kareem off waivers, who essentially fills Lewis’ spot. But it’s unlikely the team will find answers in players that were deemed expendable by other teams. Unless a trade is being concocted behind closed doors at Halas Hall, it’s likely the team will run out onto the field in Week 1 with no depth in the pass-rushing group.
DT Travis Bell
While rookie defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens worked in tandem to create chaos along opposing offensive lines this preseason, another rookie defender quietly had a strong showing as well: seventh-round rookie Travis Bell.
Bell’s stats may not jump off the page, racking up only six tackles and one QB hit, but the rookie makes his impact in ways that can’t be categorized by statistics. Bell demonstrated his power on a routine basis in the Bears’ three exhibition games, disrupting running lanes and pushing the pocket on passing plays.
Hope may not be lost for Bell and his Bears’ career, as he’s already been signed to the practice squad.
Nsimba Webster’s NFL career proves that making it to the big leagues isn’t all fame and luxury.
Webster is ultimate “practice squad” sort of guy: he works his tail off all offseason and training camp, he’s a solid contributor in the preseason, he’ll inevitably get cut from the 53-man roster and soon after get resigned to the practice squad, only for the cycle to begin again next season. (And that’s the case this year).
With that archetype laid out, it doesn’t seem all that surprising that he was cut, right? Well, the difference is he had a real chance at being active on game day this season. While guys like DJ Moore, Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney and Tyler Scott were locks to make the roster, the final two receiver spots did seem more open than it has in year’s past. Equanimeous St. Brown didn’t provide much in the way of catching ability, but was one of the better blockers at the position, which is why the Bears kept him. The real question mark was Velus Jones Jr., who had a rough preseason. Many people really thought the Bears may turn away from Jones’ intriguing skillset and look to a receiver who was much more consistent, like Webster.
Chicago signed former Bengals receiver Trent Taylor, securing their punt returner. But what does that mean for Jones?
Dieter Eiselen is similar to Webster in that he is also a veteran of the Bears practice squad, but different because he was cut by a team that desperately needs depth at offensive line.
The Bears’ decision to waive Eiselen can be interpreted as a positive development for the offensive line. Head coach Matt Eberflus recently announced that he expects the starting line to be ready to go for Week 1, with the exception of left guard Teven Jenkins.
Of course, having all the starters healthy just in time for the beginning of the season is encouraging news, but it can’t be denied the offensive line has been hampered by injuries this preseason. Jenkins, Darnell Wright, Lucas Patrick and Cody Whitehair have all taken time off because of miscellaneous injuries, resulting in the backups getting expanded playing time.
Keeping a versatile player like Eiselen may have benefitted the team in the long run, but the Bears can always call him up for the practice squad during the season should he get past the waiver period.
LB Micah Baskerville
Many players struggle to make big plays in training camp and preseason in an attempt to impress their coaches. Linebacker Micah Baskerville was a rare exception who never seemed to have that issue.
The undrafted rookie made the fanbase learn his name early in training camp, intercepting two passes in one practice. Baskerville followed up a good training camp with a solid preseason, recording 14 total tackles and deflecting one pass. It’s notoriously difficult for undrafted rookies to make the 53-man roster, however, and Baskerville fell victim on cut day. But the good news is he’s back on the practice squad.
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