Sometime next weekend the Bears will be looking at the next John Randle, Tom Waddle, Big Cat Williams, Wes Welker, maybe even Antonio Gates – all undrafted free agents who became at the very least team leaders on out to Pro Bowl players and up to Hall of Fame inclusion.
It could happen. It has happened.
The Bears will begin next weekend’s rookie minicamp with the nine rookies drafted by GM Ryan Pace and staff, but also with a cluster of undrafted rookie hopefuls, which the team has not officially announced as of Sunday night. Interestingly perhaps, whereas Pace and the Bears drafted heavily from college programs (Georgia, Kansas State, Florida, West Virginia, Miami, Indiana), the undrafteds come from a preponderance of second-tier programs.
That group is expected to include, based on transaction wire information, a couple of prospects at an apparent need area: tight end – Ben Braunecker from Harvard and Joe Sommers from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, both listed at 6-3 and with pass-catching credentials but neither topping 250 pounds for purposes of run blocking.
Neither comes with an elite football resume. That said, for purposes of comparison, Gates, a five-time All-Pro selection for the San Diego Chargers, did not play college football before going on to a career with 844 pass receptions and 104 TD’s through last season.
The Bears drafted guard Cody Whitehair in the second round but signed Duquesne center Dan Buchholz and tackle John Kling from Buffalo as part of the competition coaches want along the offensive line. Buchholz was a four-year starter at left tackle.
Defense remained a focus in filling out the pre-camp roster. Besides the three defensive backs added via the draft, the Bears are bringing in Mississippi State defensive back Taveze Calhoun, another big (6 feet, 192 pounds) DB who was a three-year starter. Linebacker Don Cherry was signed from Villanova, while the Bears also liked what they saw on a Halas Hall visit and signed Texas-El Paso edge rusher Roy Robertson-Harris in the physical mold (6-7, 255 pounds) of No. 1 pick Leonard Floyd.
Special teams got another candidate with Georgia Southern returner Derek Keaton, who averaged 26.5 yards on kickoff returns and 15.3 yards on punt returns for his two Georgia Southern seasons.