The Chicago Bears seem ready to enter the 2021 season with the roster they have. GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy did everything they felt possible to improve this team. Now it’s a matter of seeing what they have. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it still needs work. They’ll probably have an idea after Sunday night in Los Angeles. If it is the latter? Then it falls to them on finding possible solutions.
One that isn’t utilized often in the NFL but can be valuable at times is mining the practice squads of other teams for talent. Obviously, great players don’t get stored there too often. However, time has proven on more than one occasion that overlooked talent can be found there. Don’t forget Bryce Callahan started his career on the practice squad.
So if the Bears were to go sniffing around other teams for possible hidden gems, who are some guys they should look at?
Chicago Bears need to keep these names in mind as options
Hjalte Froholdt (OG, Houston Texans)
Few teams are better at producing quality offensive linemen than the New England Patriots. Unfortunately, not all of them get a chance to play. Count former 4th round pick Froholdt among them. Sadly his rookie year was ruined by a shoulder injury and by 2020 the Patriots had their eyes elsewhere. Froholdt landed with the Texans and in his first action in two years didn’t allow a single pressure in 35 pass block snaps. His anchor, technique, and intelligence are all good fits for what the Bears do.
Kenny Robinson (S, Carolina Panthers)
This guy is a fascinating story. He was expelled from West Virginia for student code violations. Rather than transfer to another school, he gambled on joining the upstart XFL instead. In five games he delivered two interceptions and a sack. One of the better defensive backs in the league. This led to him getting drafted by the Panthers. At 6’2, he has premier safety size and lots of ball skills. Some question his speed but he is around the football a lot. That is something Sean Desai covets.
Malik Jefferson (LB, Indianapolis Colts)
A former 3rd round pick in 2018, Jefferson hasn’t really gotten many opportunities to play. He was almost exclusively a backup in Cincinnati and then Los Angeles. Now he is on the Colts’ practice squad. This despite ongoing evidence that the linebacker has talent. Is he just playing in the wrong systems? Thus far he has exclusively played in 4-3 alignments. Perhaps a shift to the 3-4 in Chicago might help him unlock his potential. His coverage ability alone is worth exploring.
David Sills V (WR, New York Giants)
The Chicago Bears have placed a heavy focus on speed this offseason as they remade their wide receiver room. Speed is great, but it comes at the expense of size. They have nobody over 6’2 and nobody who is proven as a red zone threat. Sills is both. At 6’4 he has the premium height for the NFL and proved in college he was a wizard in the red zone with 33 touchdowns between his junior and senior seasons. If the Bears want somebody ideal for that area of the field? He is the one.
Adrian Ealy (OT, Baltimore Ravens)
Baltimore always finds good offensive linemen too. Ealy was a solid player at Oklahoma but some wondered if he had the bend and quickness for the NFL. He would need to improve his technique if he wanted a shot. It appears he did just that. Ealy looked outstanding as a run blocker in the preseason and allowed only one pressure in limited pass block opportunities. At 6’6, 327 lbs he has the premier size Juan Castillo looks for at that position too. Is he a better option than Lachavious Simmons? One can make the argument.
Trayveon Williams (RB, Cincinnati Bengals)
It is so unfortunate that Williams hasn’t gotten an opportunity to play. He was such a great player at Texas A&M, rushing for over 1700 yards and 18 TDs his final season there. Sadly, he can’t get any action in Cincinnati because of their complicated depth chart. This despite averaging 6.0 yards per carry in his few appearances last season. Chicago isn’t hard-pressed for running backs but they aren’t shy about giving guys looks during a season. Williams is absolutely somebody who can make them a better football team.
Kabion Ento (CB, Green Bay Packers)
It isn’t a secret the Bears need cornerback help. That was evident when they released Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine. This is usually when teams take calculated risks on no-name guys. Ento is one such name they need to look at. He’s quietly looked strong in coverage for the Packers whenever he’s on the field. The problem is he is trapped on a depth chart with more highly-drafted guys ahead of him. Ento allowed just five catches on eight targets with an interception this preseason. After two years of waiting, he is ready for his shot to compete for a starting job.
Kenny Yeboah (TE, New York Jets)
Pass-catching tight ends are the new frontier in the NFL these days. The Chicago Bears made their interest in them clear last season when they signed Jimmy Graham and drafted Cole Kmet. That said, there is no such thing as too many capable pass targets. Yeboah proved at Ole Miss he is this kind of player with 524 yards and six touchdowns in just seven games. Glimpses of that talent appeared again during the preseason. It was curious why the Jets chose to waive the rookie.
Forrest Merrill (DT, Los Angeles Chargers)
Chicago actually showed interest in the rookie nose tackle leading up to the draft. It isn’t clear if they made an offer to sign him as an undrafted free agent. His landing under Brandon Staley in Los Angeles suggests they probably did. It isn’t hard to understand why. While not the biggest guy, he continues to prove himself as a strong and sturdy run blocker. Somebody tailor-made for the middle of a 3-4 defense. While the Bears aren’t hurting for guys in that area, his capability should not be ignored.
Prince Tega Wanogho (OT, Kansas City Chiefs)
Talent was never the concern with Tega Wanogho. It was experience. He’d only played football for a year coming out of high school. Despite this, he had the idea look of an NFL left tackle. Projections had him going in the 3rd or 4th round of the 2020 draft but he fell to the 6th. Philadelphia didn’t keep him on the roster and he was soon stolen by Kansas City. They too have a lot of depth at tackle, so now he’s on their practice squad. This despite allowing just two pressures on 72 pass blocking snaps in his first actual NFL action this preseason. He fits what the Chicago Bears like in their tackles.