The Patriots announced on Monday that they'll hold joint practices with the Bears before their Aug. 18 preseason game. Is it only a matter of time before one of Chicago's players ends up in the Patriots locker room?
There's a trend here. As the years have gone by, the Patriots have benefited from joint training camp sessions not only because of how the workouts have allowed the team to jell together before the regular season. The practices have also provided the Patriots with an opportunity to do some advanced scouting.
From every joint practice in which the Patriots have participated since 2010, at least one opposing player has ended up -- at some point -- in a Patriots uniform.
Last year, after spending time at The Greenbrier resort with the Saints, the Patriots came away impressed by defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. At the time, Patriots director of pro scouting Bob Quinn (now Lions general manager) saw an opportunity for a trade and got the ball rolling on a deal that brought Hicks to Foxboro in exchange for tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.
Linebacker Ramon Humber also must have made a good impression last summer. A member of the Saints from 2010-15, he's participated against the Patriots in joint practices three separate times, and he was the first free agent signed by the Patriots this offseason.
Here's a quick rundown of the other Patriots opponents in joint practices who were eventually acquired by New England later in their careers . . .
2014 vs. Redskins: DL Frank Kearse, signed as a free agent in 2016; CB EJ Biggers, signed as a free agent in 2016
2014 vs. Eagles: CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015
2013 vs. Buccaneers: LB Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a trade in 2014; TE Tim Wright, acquired in a trade in 2014
2013 vs. Eagles: S Patrick Chung, signed as a free agent in 2014; WR Damaris Johnson, claimed on waivers from Houston in 2015; CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015
2012 vs. Saints: RB Travaris Cadet, signed as a free agent in 2015; LB Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a trade in 2014; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015
2012 vs. Buccaneers: RB LeGarrette Blount, acquired in a trade in 2013; CB Aqib Talib, acquired in a trade in 2012; CB EJ Biggers, signed as a free agent in 2016; LB Dekoda Watson, signed as a free agent in 2015
2011: No joint sessions following NFL lockout
2010 vs. Saints: LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; DE Will Smith, signed as a free agent in 2014
2010 vs. Falcons: WR Michael Jenkins, signed as a free agent in 2013
Of course there's no guarantee the Patriots will snag one or more Bears players after this summer's joint practices. (Patriots coach Bill Belichick already has three in tight end Martellus Bennett, linebacker Shea McClellin and defensive back Brock Vereen.) But it will be worth paying attention on Aug. 15 and 16 when John Fox's team visits Gillette Stadium. There just may be a future Patriot among the group.