The Bears made their first free-agent move of the 2020 NFL offseason Tuesday with the signing of CFL cornerback Tre Roberson (Calgary). According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Bears will pay Roberson the biggest contract given to a CFL free agent since the Dolphins signed Cameron Wake.
Calgary CB Tre Roberson, thought to be the top CFL free agent this year, will sign with the Chicago Bears, per a league source. Roberson chose the Bears over nine other offers. Bears are expected to give Roberson the largest CFL-to-NFL compensation since Miami signed Cameron Wake— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 29, 2020
Roberson, 27, played quarterback at Indiana and Illinois State before making the position change to cornerback prior to the 2016 NFL draft. He was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and stuck with the team on the practice squad and on a reserve/futures contract until September 2017.
Roberson signed with the Calgary Stampeders in May 2018 and used his time in the CFL to develop and sharpen his craft.
So blessed to be @ChicagoBears thank you for the opportunity in allowing me to help this organization get to the goal of winning a super bowl. Thank you to my agent for fighting hard for me through this whole process @camRONweiss @DynamicSportGrp#beardown— Tre Roberson (@tre5_roberson) January 29, 2020
Roberson appeared in 32 games over the last two seasons in Canada and enjoyed a breakout seven-interception year in 2019. He totaled 10 picks in his two-year CFL career.
Roberson's addition to the roster spells trouble for veteran Prince Amukamara. Already on shaky ground because of his hefty $10 million cap hit. The Bears can save $9 million against the salary cap if they decide to part ways with him this offseason. It's a difficult decision for GM Ryan Pace to make considering Amukamara has been one of the team's most consistent and reliable defenders over the last few seasons.
But the investment in Roberson suggests the Bears are ready for a change in the secondary. It doesn't mean Roberson is a lock to start in Chicago, but he's a talented and cheaper alternative to Amukamara, who's failed to record an interception in two of his three seasons with the Bears.
Pace may have been ready to move on from Amukamara even before adding Roberson. Kevin Toliver, II played well in relief of Amukamara last season and proved capable of at least spot starter's duty. He was signed by the Bears as an undrafted rookie in 2018 and has developed nicely over the last two seasons. He'll fight for a starting job in training camp regardless of whoever Pace adds to the roster. Toliver played 175 snaps in 2019 with all but three of them coming between Weeks 14 and 17.
There's also Duke Shelley, 2019's sixth-round pick who failed to make any significant contribution as a rookie. He played just eight snaps on defense and will enter a training-camp battle for an active roster spot this summer. His quest to make the final-53 got a lot more challenging with Roberson in town.
Roberson's addition represents a strong and relatively aggressive start to the offseason for Pace. Bears defensive backs have been put on notice, too. Competition is coming.