Bears' way-too-early roster, depth chart projections after NFL draft

Bears' way-too-early roster, depth chart projections after draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Ryan Poles' grand offseason journey to rebuild the Bears' roster is complete ... for now.

Poles opened the offseason by acquiring wide receiver DJ Moore in a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers. Then, after a free-agent spending spree that saw Poles revamp the Bears' linebacking corps, he turned his attention to the 2023 NFL Draft, where he added 10 players, including offensive tackle Darnell Wright at No. 10 overall.

With the draft now in the rear-view mirror, let's take a way, way, way too early stab at the Bears' Week 1 depth chart.

Quarterback (2): Justin Fields, P.J. Walker

Others on roster: Nathan Peterman

We don't need to spend a lot of time here.

This is a make-or-break season for Fields to prove he's a franchise signal-caller. The Bears have to have a complete evaluation of Fields by the time this season ends, and this offseason has been all about giving the 24-year-old enough support to make a Year 3 leap as a passer.

Walker is a good backup who will allow the Bears to be competitive if Fields has to miss a game or two.

Nathan Peterman is the third-string quarterback on the depth chart, but I could see undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent pushing to be the third-string quarterback this offseason.

Running back (5): Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame (FB)

Others on roster: Trestan Ebner

David Montgomery left in free agency, but the Bears added Foreman in free agency and got one of the steals of the 2023 NFL Draft when they nabbed Johnson in the fourth round.

Those three will get the bulk of the carries in 2023, while Homer provides special teams snaps and quality depth.

Second-year running back Trestan Ebner enters OTAs likely on the outside looking in.

Wide receiver (6):

X: DJ Moore, Tyler Scott
Z: Chase Claypool Equaniemous St. Brown
Slot: Darnell Mooney, Velus Jones Jr.

Others on roster: Dante Pettis Jr., Joe Reed, Daurice Fountain, Nsimba Webster

Man, this group looks a lot better than the 2022 group.

Moore gives Fields a true No. 1 receiver who bumps Mooney and Claypool down to roles that fit their skill set.

Scott was another draft steal the Bears found in the fourth round. The Cincinnati product has 4.29 speed and will give Fields a legit big-play deep threat. Scott's ability to take the top off the defense should open the intermediate area of the field for Mooney, Moore, Claypool, and Cole Kmet to operate.

As of right now, I'll give Jones the nod over Pettis for the final spot on the 53-man roster. But I could see Pettis pushing him in camp.

Poles did a good job of completely remaking what was the worst receiver room in the NFL last season.

If Fields takes a leap, the Bears could have a top-10 offense in the NFL next season.

Tight end (3): Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Chase Allen

Others on roster: Jake Tonges

Signing Tonyan gives the Bears a reliable second tight who can make plays in the red zone.

For an offense that runs through the tight ends, Tonyan is a clear upgrade over Trevon Wesco and Ryan Griffin.

The Bears could have added a third tight end in the draft, but the board didn't fall their way. Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and Luke Musgrave all went before the Bears were on the clock in the second round, and Darnell Washington didn't slide to them in Round 4.

It's a solid group led by Kmet, who I expect the Bears to extend before the season begins.

Offensive line (9)

LT: Braxton Jones
LG: Teven Jenkins, Lucas Patrick
C: Cody Whitehair, Lucas Patrick
RG: Nate Davis, Dieter Eiselen
RT: Darnell Wright, Larry Borom, Alex Leatherwood

Others on the roster: Kellen Diesch, Ja'Tyre Carter, Doug Kramer

The Bears' offensive line was a complete sieve last season. This unit looks a lot better than the one that was pushed around at will in 2022.

Drafting Wright with the No. 10 overall pick allows the Bears to leave Jones at left tackle and see how he improves after a full NFL offseason.

Signing Davis bolsters the Bears' interior line. Davis is a good run-blocker who improved as a pass protector in 2022. If Jenkins can stay healthy and Whitehair fixes his snap issues, the Bears' offensive line should be much better in 2023.

I think the Bears will keep Borom and Leatherwood for tackle depth, although I could see Leatherwood becoming a late-camp cut if he doesn't show significant improvement this offseason.

Defensive line (9):

DE: DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green
1T: Andrew Billings, Gervon Dexter, Travis Bell
3T: Justin Jones, Zacch Pickens
DE: Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson

Others on roster: Andrew Brown, Jalyn Holmes, Donovan Jeter, Terrell Lewis

The Bears signed Walker but otherwise have done nothing to address their needs at edge rusher.

Not having the No. 32 pick due to the Claypool trade cost the Bears a chance to grab a top-tier edge rusher in the top of the second round.

However, they added three defensive tackles in the draft in Pickens, Dexter, and Bell. While the edge rushing group is still lacking, the Bears' defensive tackle additions should improve what was an atrocious run defense in 2022. The ability of Pickens, Dexter, and Jones to dent the pocket should at least make life easier for Walker, Gipson, and Robinson.

The Bears still have $36.7 million in salary cap space to potentially add a veteran edge rusher. Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Houston, Leonard Floyd, and Frank Clark all remain available.

Linebackers (6):

SAM: Jack Sanborn, Dylan Cole
MIKE: Tremaine Edmunds, Noah Sewell
WILL: T.J. Edwards, Sterling Weatherford

Others on roster: DeMarquis Gates, Kuony Deng

Poles spent big on the linebacking corps in free agency, adding an athletic, rangy linebacker in Edmunds and a downhill thumper in Edwards.

Those additions allow the Bears to shift Sanborn to the strongside, where he is more likely to find long-term success.

The Bears drafted Sewell in Round 5. The Oregon product was a projected top-50 pick after the 2021 season but had a disappointing 2022 season. He's a terrific blitzer with great downhill athleticism. Sewell should provide quality special teams snaps this season and could develop into the starting SAM in 2024.

Cornerbacks (6):

CB1: Jaylon Johnson, Terell Smith
CB2: Tyrique Stevenson, Kindle Vildor
NB: Kyler Gordon, Josh Blackwell

Others on the roster: Jaylon Jones, Greg Stroman Jr., Michael Ojemudia

Poles has revamped the Bears' secondary in two drafts.

After drafting Gordon last year, Poles doubled down by selecting Stevenson and Smith. Stevenson is a physical, press-man corner with good ball skills. Adding Stevenson, who should start opposite Johnson, will allow Gordon to man the nickel full-time.

Smith is another long, physical corner who gives them good depth and could be valuable insurance should they not extend Johnson.

Safeties (4): Eddie Jackson, Jaquan Brisker, Elijah Hicks, Kendall Williamson

Others on the roster: A.J. Thomas, Adrian Colbert

As long as Jackson makes a full recovery from the Lisfranc injury, the safety position should be set for the foreseeable future.

Hicks and Williamson provide sufficient depth behind Jackson and Brisker.

Specialist (3): Cairo Santos, Trenton Gill, Patrick Scales

Others on roster: Ryan Anderson

This group seems set. Santos remains a reliable kicker, and Gill had a solid rookie season.

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