The draft was only the beginning of the Bears' talent grab
While the 2019 NFL Draft was a memorable event, the Chicago Bears have continued to add new players since then, signing a group of undrafted free agents. And with the team's rookie minicamp beginning this weekend, the next phase of talent evaluation has begun.
Hearing your name called in the draft is every player's dream come true, but it doesn't always work that way. Plus, most teams fill out their training camp rosters with rookie free agents (or UDFAs) anyway. In previous seasons the Bears used minicamps to evaluate players that can help with the now-completed rebuild.
This year, however, the Bears are looking to evaluate specific positions of need. And here are some of the undrafted rookies that the Bears will be taking a long look at this weekend.
Special teams coach Chris Tabor will be quite busy this weekend as he'll be evaluating four, yes four kickers (not including the other four that were invited on a tryout basis) as the team looks to move past the regrettable Cody Parkey era. All four men are new to the National Football League. During the offseason the Bears signed former Tulsa placekicker Redford Jones, who hasn't played in an actual game since 2017, former Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt (yes that's his real name), who last kicked in 2016, and just before the draft they brought in former Alliance of American Football (AAF) kicker Elliot Fry, who played for the Orlando Apollos before the league folded last month. And after the draft, the Bears signed UDFA John Baron, who just finished up at San Diego State.
Baron, Blewitt, and Jones combined to make 155 field goals and 502 extra points at the collegiate level. Fry, on the other hand, was one of just four kickers in the AAF to make every single field goal attempt (he went 14-for-14). Based on experience alone, Fry has to be the favorite. But of course, the Bears could always add another kicker to the mix so it's highly likely that this picture won't get any clearer until preseason games start in August. But this weekend is when the competition begins.
Notre Dame offensive linemen Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars
It's a family reunion of sorts as both men will once again be taught by Harry Hiestand, who coached Notre Dame's offensive line from 2015-17. Now Hiestand is in charge of molding the Bears front that protects Mitchell Trubisky. This team could use some depth on the o-line as they've had some significant injuries in recent seasons. Mustipher (center) and Bars (guard) were arguably worth draft consideration, but that didn't happen. Both men will have a chance to be a part of the pipeline of former Fighting Irish offensive linemen to the NFL, which includes 2018 first-round picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey.
Mustipher and Bars were part of a unit that allowed no more than two sacks in eight of Notre Dame's 13 games last year and surrendered 25 in total. Behind a strong offensive line, the Irish's offense averaged 440 yards per game (32nd nationally) and scored 50 touchdowns. Bars did miss some time due to a knee injury but hopefully, he is completely healthy as he and Mustipher will have a chance at showing Chicago's coaching staff what they can offer.
A group of tight ends
This was another position that had some shortcomings in 2018. Trey Burton is set as the team's starter but the depth behind him is questionable at this point of the offseason. So the Bears added Utah State's Dax Raymond, California's Ian Bunting, and Georgia Southern's Ellis Richardson, who combined to catch 55 passes for 621 yards and five touchdowns last season. Raymond and Bunting are proven receivers, while Richardson was more of a blocking tight end in Georgia State's offense.
Buffalo edge rusher Chuck Harris
The 2018 Mid-American East Division champion Bulls were one of the more underrated defenses in college football last season. Harris led the team in both sacks (6.5) and tackles for a loss (7.5). For his career, Harris totaled 149 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one pass breakup, and one defensive touchdown. He lined up as a defensive end for Buffalo, but the Bears plan to work Harris out at outside linebacker, which is another position in need of an extra body or two.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.