But coach Matt Eberflus, who spoke to reporters two hours before the deadline, wasn’t quite ready to declare Bagent the backup to Fields, saying they were “letting the roster finalize itself.”
“We certainly feel great about where he is,” Eberflus said. “He has put his best foot forward, and we’re excited where we see him going in the future.”
Two days after cutting veteran quarterback P.J. Walker — and absorbing the $2 million they guaranteed Walker — the Bears released veteran quarterback Nathan Peterman. That left the Bears QBs room with a total of two years of NFL experience, all from Fields.
Bears coaches have spoken of the value of having an experienced quarterback in the room to help Fields — and to bring to the field should Fields get injured — and Eberflus said the Bears were looking at the possibility of bringing in a player with more experience. The Bears are No. 1 in the waiver-claim process.
Peterman also could sign with the practice squad. He has been in the NFL since 2017, was the Bears third-string quarterback for most of last season and started one game in 2022.
“That’s certainly a good thought, when you can have somebody with experience in there to help younger quarterbacks,” Eberflus said. “It’s certainly something that we’ve talked about.”
Even with that in flux, making the roster still was a big moment for Bagent, who threw for 17,034 yards and 159 touchdowns at Division II Shepherd. His play in training camp practices and preseason games demanded attention, and coupled with the struggles of Walker, that prompted the Bears to open up the competition to be the backup quarterback.
Eberflus said Tuesday coaches were impressed by Bagent’s “execution, poise, accuracy and the ability to move the ball down the field.” His play was good enough that the Bears didn’t want to risk losing him via waivers if they tried to push him to the practice squad, even if they weren’t yet ready to call him the backup on Tuesday.
Bagent said after Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills that he could feel people’s surprise during camp and the preseason as he began to make plays.
“You make a play and instead of just people saying, ‘Good job,’ they’re like, ‘Dang, good job! Like, really good job!’” Bagent said. “There’s been a lot more questions of just, ‘Hey, man, where is your school from? What’s it called?’ Just little things like that. I think that it’s exciting for people.”
Bears tight end Robert Tonyan, who first entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana State, said he spoke with Bagent recently about what it takes to make it down such a path.
Tonyan said he tried to give him confidence that “anything can happen.”
“Preseason’s very big, and with the little amount of reps you get, you have to make a splash,” Tonyan said. “Not anything out of the ordinary, but being consistent with those minimal reps you get. Obviously that worked out for him. When he was in there for a little bit, he was making plays. He got more opportunities in those preseason games and you see him leading the offense down and scoring in the Indy game and here at home. So he’s a good kid. He’s a gamer. What’s good about him, he was from a D-II school and he played a lot of football. … He has a lot of football under his belt.”
Still, Eberflus noted Bagent will have a lot to absorb as he moves into full planning mode for the season opener Sept. 10 against the Green Bay Packers. Among the challenges will be learning the process of how a game plan changes week in and week out during the regular season.
“That’s probably a lot different than what he’s used to,” Eberflus said. “When you put in a training camp install, and you’re going through these concepts that you have — the runs, then the play action comes off of it, the screen game we’re putting in and the quick game, the empty game and so forth — you go through that process during Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 of training camp.
“All of the sudden now you get to a game week and you say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna pull this off the board. We’re gonna change this, adjust this.’ And you’ve got to learn all those concepts.”