Not much will change in the Bears’ evaluation of their own players between Sunday afternoon and Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline to cut their roster down to 53 players. With over a month of practices and games to evaluate the guys on their team, the focus of Ryan Pace and the Bears’ decision-makers from Thursday night’s preseason finale through Saturday afternoon will be on the waiver wire feeding frenzy that comes with 31 other teams needing to trim their rosters from 90 players to 53.
So barring an injury or a massively good or bad performance Thursday night at Solider Field, this is our projection of what the Bears’ 53-man roster will look like when its unveiled this coming Saturday. The caveat here: There can be waiver wire additions that’ll alter what it looks like when the Bears begin practicing for their opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. A few positions to watch there: Tight end, swing tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback and — yes — kicker.
One other thing to note here: Don’t overrate players the Bears cut and fret about them making the practice squad or not. Those kind of moves rarely happen — for a team to claim a player off waivers on cut-down weekend, they must keep him on their 53-man roster. So for the Ryan Nalls or Ian Buntings or Clifton Ducks of the Bears roster, there’s a chance they lose those players by cutting them — but there’s a much greater chance they’re able to sign them to their own practice squad.
Anyways, on to the roster:
QUARTERBACK (2): Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel
Cut: Tyler Bray
Daniel has not had a good preseason. He’s also not going anywhere, and will again be the Bears’ backup quarterback in 2019.
RUNNING BACK (4): David Montgomery, Mike Davis, Tarik Cohen, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Cut: Ryan Nall, Josh Caldwell
Nall had an impressive 69-yard run in Saturday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Bears gave Whyte an extended look early in the game. While he didn’t stand out from a production stand point (four carries, eight yards; one catch, seven yards) his speed is evident, and that alone could be enough for him to make the team. His kickoff return ability, too, provides an extra boost for his chances of making the roster.
WIDE RECEIVER (6): Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims
Cut: Marvin Hall, Thomas Ives, Tanner Gentry, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Joe Walker
This group has felt decided for a little while now, with Hall fading after a strong start to training camp while Wims continued to stack good practices. No receiver stood out much during Saturday’s game.
Notably, though: Don’t be surprised if Wims is active for the Bears’ opener against the Packers and Riley Ridley is not. Wims has averaged about 10 special teams snaps per game this preseason, while Ridley is averaging a little over five.
TIGHT END (4): Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cut: Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting, Ellis Richardson, Jesper Horsted
This is a tough call here. Raymond has done some good things as a blocker during preseason play, though he hasn’t produced as a pass-catcher. Bunting has been the opposite: He had a 25-yard reception Saturday but hasn’t shown as much as a blocker. The Bears should be able to get both Bunting and Raymond to their practice squad if they don’t make the roster.
While Sowell hasn’t shown much as a receiver, coach Matt Nagy preached patience with his move from offensive line to tight end, which felt like good news for his chances of securing a roster spot.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie, Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward, Alex Bars
Cut: TJ Clemmings (potentially to IR), Jordan McCray, Blake Blackmar, Sam Mustipher, Marquez Tucker, Cornelius Lucas, Joe Lowery
Clemmings might’ve been on his way to a roster spot before he suffered a serious-looking leg injury during Saturday’s game. It’ll be interesting to see how much tackle Bars plays — and how well he plays it — during Thursday’s preseason finale (if you’re looking for something to watch for, this is it). His ability to play both guard and tackle puts him squarely on the Bears’ roster, with Coward (presuming he won’t need to go on injured reserve with the elbow injury he sustained in preseason Week 2) a backup tackle and Larsen a backup interior guy.
So this leaves the Bears with 24 offensive players and 26 defensive players, but if general manager Ryan Pace is serious about keeping the best 53, this feels like the way to go.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6): Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Bilal Nichols, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Nick Williams
Cut: Jonathan Harris, Abdullah Anderson, Jalen Dalton, Daryle Banfield
Previously, we’ve had Williams on the outside looking in of the roster. But he had a strong game Saturday against the Colts, and was on the roster a year ago despite only playing in two games. We’ll put him on for now, though if the Bears need to clear a roster spot for someone acquired on waivers — like a tackle, outside linebacker or cornerback — he could be back on the bubble given the depth ahead of him.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, James Vaughters
Cut: Kylie Fitts, Chuck Harris, Matt Betts
Vaughters notched strip-sacks in each of the Bears’ last two games, and with some flexibility in carrying only 24 offensive players, he gets a roster spot here. He’s been an active participant in special teams during the preseason, too, leading the Bears with 42 ‘teams snaps.
Irving hasn’t flashed much and could be a mildly surprising cut, though we’ll keep him on here without a better option emerging. Still, the Bears could look to address their depth behind Mack/Floyd/Lynch on the waiver wire.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5): Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Nick Kwiatkoski, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Kevin Pierre-Louis
Cut: Josh Woods, Jameer Thurman
Tough call here. Kwiatkoski secured his spot on the roster with a standout game Saturday, but there’s murkiness behind him. Pierre-Louis paired with Kwiatkoski in the first half — not Iyiegbuniwe — so we’ll put him on the roster, given that and his expected special teams contributions (though he’s only played five special teams snaps this preseason). But no Bears player played more special teams snaps than Iyiegbuniwe last year, and the former fourth-round pick keeps his spot based on that work. Woods has played well this preseason and would be a prime practice squad candidate, and might be one of the more difficult cuts the Bears make.
CORNERBACKS (5): Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver II, Duke Shelley
Cut: Stephen Denmark, John Franklin III, Clifton Duck, Michael Joseph
Saturday was a rough game for Franklin and Joseph, and we didn’t see Duck — who’s been productive in practice and preseasons games — until the second half. The waiver wire could produce a sixth cornerback for the Bears here, because after a promising start the Bears’ group of young, undrafted corners has slipped a bit over the last two games. Denmark hasn’t played and could be an injured reserve candidate, though the Bears probably wouldn’t have a problem getting their seventh-round developmental athletic project on their practice squad.
SAFETIES (5): Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Sherrick McManis
Cut: Doyin Jibowu, Jonathon Mincy
Bush had a 91-yard pick six on Saturday, and has been one of the Bears’ best players during 2019’s preseason.
SPECIALISTS (3): Eddy Pineiro (PK), Pat O’Donnell (P), Patrick Scales (LS)
Cut: John Wirtel (LS)
For the first time in these roster projections, we have the Bears keeping a kicker on their roster. Pineiro’s 58-yard field goal was a standout moment in the kicking battle, and the timing of it — after a confidence-boosting chat with Nagy — was notable. Pineiro said he feels like he’s a part of the team and doesn’t have to concern himself with who’s getting field goal attempts now that he’s the only kicker on the roster.
So viewing Pineiro’s 58-yard field goal in a vacuum would be a little unfair. If this is what he can do when he’s the only kicker on a roster, then the Bears will have no qualms about giving him a shot in the regular season. He has one more game at Soldier Field to bolster his case, but barring a disaster on Thursday night, he’ll not only survive Saturday’s cut, but Sunday’s waiver-wire frenzy as well.