First year Bears GM Ryan Poles is right to be eyeing the future when making roster decisions for this year
By Herb Howard
The initial roster for the 2022 Bears has been chosen, as all NFL teams were required to cut down to 53 players by the 3pm deadline on Tuesday. Some notable cuts for the Bears included veteran OL Michael Schoefield, veteran DL Mario Edwards, and second year DB Thomas Graham Jr.
Schoefield, a Chicago-area native, who has started over 80 games in his NFL career, was signed just before training camp began and was initially seen as the favorite to start at Right Guard. Having grown up as a Bears fan, Michael Schoefield expressed the excitement he and his family felt about him being a Chicago Bear. He told stories of having Kyle Orton and Brian Urlacher jerseys as a kid. Unfortunately, for Schoefield, after starting the first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs he would be relegated to the second unit in favor of Teven Jenkins, who unexpectedly, was making the switch from Tackle to Guard.
Jenkins still has a lot to learn about playing Guard but he was already outplaying Schoefield and even if things were even between the two players, it made sense for the Bears to allow the younger Jenkins, a potential building block, to gain the starting experience now. Perhaps, if the Bears were not a rebuilding team, they would’ve kept the veteran around. Instead, they opted to go with youth, keeping rookie 6th round pick Ja’Tyre Carter on the roster as a backup interior lineman.
Veteran and versatile Defensive Lineman Mario Edwards may have also fallen victim to the current State of the Bears. While Edwards has missed time with injuries this summer, most assumed he’d make the roster. However, this isn’t a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this season. Such a team would be more inclined to keep proven veterans on the roster. For a team just laying the foundation of who they want to become, getting a good long look at your young talent is the prudent way to go.
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From a front office perspective, Ryan Poles has to be thinking that this year is predominantly about establishing a culture for how they want to do things. Presumably, younger players are more malleable. They are also more likely, if they’re good, to be on this team when the Bears are legitimately ready to compete for a Super Bowl.
Poles knows that the Bears are projected to have the most salary cap space of any team in the League next year. He’ll be equipped to sign top tier veterans to fill any major needs on the roster. This year, it behooves him to identify which of his young players can become true building blocks for the future. Find out if Braxton Jones and/or Dominique Robinson can be the steal(s) of the Draft. Find out if Teven Jenkins can become a mauler at RG. Bears fans may not want to hear this, but a GM has to know it: this is not the Bears year to compete. If they can surprise some people and hit the Over on their projected 6.5 wins this season, great. If they go above that, even better, but there is definitely a proverbial ceiling on this season. Poles is right to be eyeing the future when making roster decisions for this year.
Thomas Graham Jr, the 2nd year CB who made the most of his opportunities last season and figured to be competing for a starting spot coming into training camp, may have been a surprise cut to some. Initially thought to be the front-runner for the slot corner spot and versatile enough to play outside, Graham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury. His lack of availability for the new regime, coupled with the emergence of the Bears top Draft pick Kyler Gordon in the slot, left Thomas as the odd man out.
The truth is, even as this edition of the 2022 Bears are out on the practice field, Poles and the personnel department are upstairs working hard to upgrade at positions where some of the guys may have just barely “made” the team. The Chicago Bears figure to be monitoring the waiver wire closely for players that are released by other teams. Look for them to add several players in the coming hours and days.
What’s next? General Manager Ryan Poles has obvious ties to the Chiefs and Head Coach Matt Eberflus to the Colts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they added players from either of those rosters. Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy is familiar with the Packers roster. If they release a player that he believes in, maybe the Bears add a player from Green Bay. It’s also common to see teams sign players waived by teams they played in the preseason, as they were able to get a firsthand evaluation of those players in game action, so the Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks mays also be on their radar.
Simply put, this certainly won’t be the final version of this roster. Coach Eberflus said that evaluating talent from other teams around the League is a year-long process and that they are always looking to get more explosive athletes on their team. I expect this Bears team to be as active on the waiver wire as any team in the league. Not only do I expect the Bears will be active before Week 1 of the season, I also suspect that they’ll be players down the line at the trade deadline.
Some Bears players are secured in their positions this season, but for guys at the backend of the roster, I wouldn’t go house shopping just yet.