First of a series
With every signing directed by general manager Ryan Pace, another Bears player or two moves directly onto a roster trap door. If not their roster spots, then at least their 2014 starting position is at the very least in doubt and likely gone.
Jobs won’t be officially won or lost until coach John Fox gets the team “on the grass” and that doesn’t happen for another week or so, with voluntary veteran minicamp April 28-30. But the list of starters in jeopardy already is getting long, particularly on defense where a coaching change is magnified by a scheme change.
“It’s hard to say,” Fox said during last month’s NFL owners meetings. “We’re piecing it together and still a lot of work to be done in free agency. Ryan and myself have seen a lot of good players, a lot of starters, added even after the league meetings. So there’s a lot of good football players out there who are signable.”
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For instance, the Bears have signed two linebackers and are moving a 2014 defensive end back to outside linebacker, where he has played previously. That leaves the three Game 16 starters of last season — Jonathan Bostic, Christian Jones, Shea McClellin — competing for one vacancy. The situation becomes all the more notable because McClellin is a former No. 1 pick and Bostic a 2.
In a roster that is going from four to three defensive linemen, the Bears finished 2014 with 10 on their roster, plus Lamarr Houston and Willie Young on IR. Houston is moving but even with versatilities, the Bears won’t be carrying 10 defensive linemen anymore.
How many of them, and other positions, carry will begin to play out in earnest with the first minicamp. But coach and GM clearly have some notions; otherwise, free-agent signings and draft priorities don’t happen.
“I kind of have [depth charts] in my brain,” Fox said, “and then [the players] compete.”