Bears' 2024 UDFAs include intriguing defensive lineman, former USC wide receiver

Bears' 2024 UDFAs include intriguing defensive lineman, former USC wide receiver originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears were one of the obvious winners of the 2024 NFL Draft.

General manager Ryan Poles selected his franchise quarterback in Caleb Williams, an elite wide receiver prospect in Rome Odunze, a developmental tackle in Kiran Amegadjie, the top punter in Tory Taylor, and a raw but talented edge rusher in Austin Booker.

The work didn't stop for Poles and his staff. The Bears agreed to deals with several undrafted rookies ahead of next week's rookie minicamp and handed out a number of minicamp invites.

Last offseason, the Bears struck UDFA gold with quarterback Tyson Bagent. Poles will be hoping to find similar luck with this year's class.

Here's a look at the UDFAs the Bears have signed, as well as some rookie minicamp invitees:


Austin Reed, QB, Western Kentucky

Reed, 24, was a productive college quarterback at Western Kentucky. In two seasons at WKU after transferring from West Florida, Reed threw for 8,084 yards and 71 touchdowns on 678-of-1073 passing with 22 interceptions.

However, Reed played in an offense that featured throws behind the line of scrimmage on almost 30 percent of his throws. Despite the easy throws, Reed still completed just 61.5 percent of his passes.

Reed and new Bears rookie quarterback Caleb Williams trained together this offseason in Florida with Will Hewlett.

Keith Randolph, DT, Illinois

The 6-foot-3, 296-pound Randolph is a good run-stopping defensive tackle with limited pass-rush upside.

Last season for the Illini, Randolph notched 49 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and four tackles for loss in 10 games. Randolph is a space-eater who could find a role as a one technique, but he lacks the agility to be a disruptor. The Bears need interior defensive line depth after losing Justin Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency.

Randolph could battle to be the No. 2 nose tackle behind Andrew Billings, but it will be an uphill climb.

Jamree Kromah, DL, James Madison

Kromah is a versatile defensive lineman coming off a 10-sack season for James Madison in 2023.

Kromah is an explosive athlete who excels at rushing from the interior. However, he has also shown the quickness to be effective off the edge.

He posted a Relative Athletic Score of 9.67. At 277 pounds, Kromah will need to put on weight if he plans to play defensive tackle in the NFL.

With the right development, Kromah could become a rotational three-technique, but he'll likely be a practice squad or fringe bottom-of-the-roster player in 2023.

Theo Benedet, OL, UBC

The Bears love athletic, traitsy offensive linemen, and Benedet fits that mold.

The University of British Columbia product measured 6-foot-7, 295 pounds during his pro day. He recorded a 34.5-inch vertical with a 9-foot-6-inch broad jump.

He can play tackle or guard and is most effective in a zone scheme like the Bears run.

Benedet posted a RAS of 9.03. He won two consecutive J.P. Metras Trophies, given to the best down lineman in U Sports football, during his final two seasons at UBC.

Odieu Hiliare, WR, Bowling Green

The 5-foot-11, 182-pound receiver caught 45 passes for 532 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Falcons.

Hiliare posted a 4.58 40-yard dash with a 32.5-inch vertical and a 7.21 three-cone drill at his pro day. He has a RAS of 3.33.

Carl Jones, LB, UCLA

A high-motor linebacker, Jones was a special teams ace for the Bruins.

At 217 pounds, Jones will have to transition from edge rusher to off-ball linebacker in the NFL. He was viewed as a "tweener" during the pre-draft process.

Brendan Bates, TE, Kentucky

The 6-foot-5, 247-pound tight end ran a 4.66 40 at his pro day while also posting a 10-foot-2-inch broad jump.

Bates played over 1,200 offensive snaps during his career at Kentucky. He was utilized as a blocking tight end and fullback in Lexington. He caught 26 passes for 272 yards during his career.

Reddy Steward, CB, Troy

Steward is an underrated cornerback who posted impressive ball-production numbers at Troy.

During the last two seasons, Steward notched seven interceptions and 22 pass breakups while earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors in both seasons.

Steward faces a tough battle to make the 53-man roster but could be a practice-squad candidate.

Ian Wheeler, RB, Howard

A versatile running back who was part of a three-man rotation at Howard, Wheeler was a big-play threat for the Bison as a runner, receiver, and returner.

This past season, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound back rushed for 380 yards on 52 carries (7.4 yards per carry). He also caught 19 passes for 119 yards and racked up 494 yards on kickoff returns.

He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at his pro day while recording a 38.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-5-inch broad jump.

Leon Jones, CB, Arkansas State

He played in 20 games (12 starts) over the past two seasons with the Red Wolves, notching 12 pass breakups and 30 tackles.

Like Steward, Jones will have a tough time cracking the 53-man roster, given the Bears' loaded secondary.


John Jackson III, WR, USC/Nevada

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver played four years at USC, including the 2022 season with Williams, before transferring to Nevada for the 2023 season.

Last year, Jackson caught 35 passes for 267 yards to lead Nevada.

During his time at USC, Jackson mainly played on special teams. He saw minor action on offense, catching five passes for 42 yards.

He is good friends with Williams, who posted on Instagram after the Bears invited Jackson to rookie minicamp.

Travian Blaylock, S, Wisconsin

The 5-foot-11 safety notched seven tackles and a pass breakup in 13 games (two starts) last season for the Badgers. He missed the 2022 season with an injury.

Hayden Gillum, C, Kansas State

A former defensive end turned center, Gillum only allowed 19 pressures in 13 games last season for the Wildcats. He did not allow a sack, per Pro Football Focus.

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound center allowed just 38 pressures and one sack in 761 pass-blocking opportunities over the past two seasons.

John McCartan, EDGE, Oregon State

The 6-foot-5, 253-pound outside linebacker played in 13 games for the Beavers last season and notched 47 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two pass breakups, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Other known invitees

Marcus Rogers, WR, Troy

Paul Moala, LB, Georgia Tech

Brian Abraham, LB, Yale

Donny Ventrelli, OL, North Dakota

David Satkowski, OL, Stonehill

Noah Atagi, OL, Weber State

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