Bears

Bears' roster decisions come with complications

Bears' roster decisions come with complications

Some NFL roster decisions are clear; one NFL coach once remarked that he typically had a pretty good idea of who 50 of his final 53 players would be before training camp ever started.

But by the end of training camps, those assumptions can fall prey to circumstances that make final calls far more difficult than simply knowing who your best 53 football players are. For the Bears this weekend, the difficult moments will extend beyond the unpleasant task of a coach needing to inform a young man that he’s been cut.

Start with the general guideline that most coaches like to give their offensive and defensive coordinators 25 slots, plus three for special teams. The trouble with that equation is that injuries or the threat of them within a position group cannot be dismissed, and one side of the football may lose headcount in the interests of the overall.

By the time you’re reading this, most decisions will have been made and some made public. But consider the complications (and you make the calls):

Secondary considerations

The Bears’ three top cornerbacks (Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter) all have been on the injury list this preseason. That points toward keeping an extra corner, meaning six. But while Sherrick McManis is listed as and has played corner, he is almost exclusively a special-teams fixture.

Do the Bears have the luxury of keeping a sixth cornerback whose value is only on special teams? Because other needs lurk.

[MORE BEARS: Meaningful takeaways from Bears' 'meaningless' final preseason game]

The same problem exists at safety, where starters Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey are in place, backed up by rookies/draft picks Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson. Demontre Hurst can work as a reserve nickel corner. But as with the cornerback situation, can the Bears tie up a roster spot with Chris Prosinski, who like McManis is effectively a special-teamer.

The Bears keeping both McManis and Prosinski starts squeezing things elsewhere.

Line-backing

One “benefit” of a 3-4 scheme is that it necessitates more linebackers than a 4-3 based around a Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Brian Urlacher. Reserve linebackers are axiomatic to good special teams because of the size-speed combination.

But the Bears face a conundrum with Pernell McPhee and the linebacker’s knee, which is expected to keep him down for at least the first several games. If the Bears decide McPhee can contribute sooner than the first half of the season, which placing him on the PUP list would cost, then he is included in the initial 53.

But his unavailability projects to needing an extra linebacker in the meantime. Sam Acho gives the Bears special-teams impact and leadership and can staff an OLB spot.

Can the Bears hold open a spot at outside linebacker for McPhee, given that Leonard Floyd, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young don’t play special teams other than kick-block?

Risky up front

Because the trickle-down effect of all these situations affect each other. The Bears cannot realistically keep an extra cornerback, safety and linebacker without the risk of exposure on the defensive line.

And “risk” is the operative word. The Bears finished 2015 with only one defensive lineman (Will Sutton) who was with them in training camp. A variety of issues left them short-handed, and if that group struggles, so does everything behind it.

The Bears went light with five defensive linemen last year in Week 1, and roster squeezes elsewhere may force that scenario on them again. But which five?

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Cornelius Washington has had a strong preseason but has injury history that includes going on IR after game last season. Can the Bears gamble on Washington’s health, particularly with no depth behind Eddie Goldman at nose tackle? Will Sutton is a coaches’ favorite, can play nose, but is undersized. Ego Ferguson was largely invisible before Thursday, has played both nose and five-technique, but also is coming off season-ending knee surgery.

Throw in the prospect of intense heat in Houston and the risks multiply.

And that’s just defense/special teams.

Easier calls…sorta’

Quarterback is a gimme; Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer. Running back, too: Ka’Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard, who flashed for 107 rushing yards at Cleveland. After that:

Do the Bears stay with both Eddie Royal and Marc Mariani, both solid slot receivers? Cameron Meredith played his way off any bubble, and Josh Bellamy is a special-teamer. With Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White, that’s six wide receivers for an offense that wants to be run-based. And none of them are answers on kickoff return.

A run-based offense uses tight ends and, in the Bears case, a fullback for now. The Bears used three-tight-end packages this preseason, although whether they have three workables among Zach Miller, Tony Moeaki, Greg Scruggs, Khari Lee and Rob Housler won’t be totally clear until the group starts trying to block Texans.

All of which trickles down, as it does on defense, to the line. The Bears have seven linemen active on game days. They have rostered as many as 10 offensive linemen, nine is preferable, but with squeezes elsewhere, one scenario is a reserve contingent of Mike Adams or Garry Williams (tackle), Amini Silatolu (guard) and Cornelius Edison (center). Edison is a young stopgap, and Adams and Silatolu are coming off major injuries.

Now, you make the calls.

Derek Carr’s Instagram with Khalil Mack a hilarious sign of NFL silly season

Derek Carr’s Instagram with Khalil Mack a hilarious sign of NFL silly season

There's smoke here, and Derek Carr is coming to the Bears, right?

You might want to believe that if you, the Bears fan who’s given up on Mitch Trubisky, reads into Carr's caption-free Thursday Instagram post. The photo was of Carr, who’s still employed by the Raiders, with his good friend Khalil Mack. 

Couple Carr’s confusingly-similar-named brother, David, posting a hashtag (#megaPowers) on it, and the inference is crystal-clear, right? This can only mean one thing: Carr will quarterback the Bears in 2020.

That’s the good stuff. 

Welcome to the NFL’s social silly season, where Stefon Diggs deleting photos of him in a Minnesota Vikings uniform means the moody receiver definitely wants to be traded (that happened with Jordan Howard two years ago and…Howard was not traded in 2018’s offseason).

Know how to interpret a single emoji in a tweet from an impending free agent or disgruntled star? Congrats! You're qualified to be an NFL insider.

Now: Carr posting a photo with one of his closest buddies means he very well could want a reunion with Mack in Chicago. 

Nevermind the minor details of Carr 1) Still being on a Raiders team that doesn’t currently have his replacement on the roster, and won’t until mid-March at the earliest, 2) carrying a $21.5 million cap hit in 2020, about $7 million more than the Bears’ available salary cap and 3) not having any control over where he’d go if the Raiders were to trade him.

Maybe Carr found a picture of him and his best friend and posted it for no other reason than it was a good photo, as those of us on Instagram often do. 

More important: The Bears look unlikely to make a splash move at quarterback if you follow the money. Carr is too expensive to trade for while also successfully filling red-line needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety. 

Or maybe there is smoke here, and the Raiders have made it clear to Carr they’re going to explore the quarterback market — maybe with Cam Newton, maybe with Tom Brady — and he’s starting to agitate for a trade to Chicago. Maybe the Bears are back-channeling some discussions to make sure they’re at the front of Mike Mayock’s mind when he tries to find a landing spot for Carr in the event he and Jon Gruden lure Brady to Las Vegas. The Bears, theoretically, could trade for Carr and sign him to an extension that makes his 2020 cap hit more palatable. 

You can see why the Bears might want Carr, who's had success in the past, is cheap relative to other starting quarterbacks and could be viewed as this franchise's version of Alex Smith. But that’s a long way off.  

And it’s not unprecedented for a vague Instagram post to portend the future. Remember when Allen Robinson posted a photo of him in a Cubs jersey a month before signing in Chicago?

Or, another possibility, and this tracks the most: Maybe Carr is just messing with everyone, knowing his name has been mentioned by the media as a potential trade target. 

As Instagram user angel.et.03 so elegantly put it in a comment on the post: “Carr just f***ing with us at this point.”

Good on Carr if he is, since he certainly succeeded.

Then again: Of the 70,000+ likes the photo has, one of them is from the user “fiftydeuce,” — Mack himself.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Does Derek Carr want to be a Chicago Bear?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Does Derek Carr want to be a Chicago Bear?

David Haugh, Mark Carman and Mark Potash join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Bulls return to the court for the 2nd half of the season but fans are focused on the offseason. Can the team land a big name to overhaul the basketball operations? Plus the guy talk about what they hope to see from Coby White over the last 27 games.

10:00 - The Blackhawks are looking like sellers with the trade deadline approaching. Should anybody be off limits including Patrick Kane? And are they headed for a front office overhaul like their fellow United Center tenants?

17:00 - Derek Carr posts a picture of him hugging Khalil Mack on Instagram. Does he want to be a Bear? Plus "Potsy" is no happy with the NFL looking to expand the season to 17 games.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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