Keenan Allen

6 new Bears players to know as team continues OTAs

These new guys will play key roles for the team in 2024

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If you’re just tuning into the Bears now that they’re back at Halas Hall for their first OTAs of the year, you may have missed some of the bigger offseason additions this year. Or maybe you were so dialed into Caleb Williams throughout the pre-draft process that you didn’t have time to look into the other rookies or free agent signings. Perhaps you just want a refresher on some of the biggest moves over winter and spring to get ready for the summer.

Whatever the case, we’re here to help. Here are a handful of the new names that you should know as the Bears get back to work.

KEENAN ALLEN - WIDE RECEIVER

The Bears traded away a fourth-round pick to the Chargers to bring in Allen, who’s been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league over his 11-season career. Allen turned 32 last month, so he shouldn’t be considered a long term option for the team. But he dominates defenses based on his excellent route running and precise techniques– not speed– so he should still be able to perform at a high level as an “older” pass catcher.

RYAN BATES - CENTER

Ryan Poles tried to bring in Bates back in 2022, when Bates was a Bills restricted free agent. Poles signed Bates to an offer sheet that the Bills eventually matched, which kept the versatile interior lineman in Buffalo. Poles finally got his man by sending a fifth-round pick to the Bills back in March. Bates was relegated to backup duties last year, but the expectation is that he’ll get the first crack at the starting center job this year.

AUSTIN BOOKER - DEFENSIVE END

Just when it appeared that the Bears were done in the 2024 draft, Poles traded back into the fifth round to select Booker. Team scouts love that Booker has several ways he can beat opposing offensive linemen, whether it’s with speed, deceptive power or a nifty counter move. They also believe he has room to grow more into his long frame. This season however, the expectation is he’ll work as a rotational pass rusher while he hones his craft.

KEVIN BYARD - FREE SAFETY

When the Bears cut Eddie Jackson, they faced the challenge of finding a new vocal, veteran leader in the back of the defense who could also take the ball away. The team did just that when they signed Byard to a free agent deal, and they upgraded their defensive backfield tackling in the process. Byard could end up being the sneaky best free agent acquisition of the year.

D’ANDRE SWIFT - RUNNING BACK

The Bears tried to run with a three-headed monster with Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and Roschon all splitting carries. It wasn’t as effective as the team would’ve hoped. This year, the team is set to make Swift the lead back with others rotating in when he needs a spell. The former Lions second-round pick is coming off the best season of his career, when he carried the ball 229 times for 1,049 yards with five scores for the Eagles. Philly didn’t use Swift as a pass catcher out of the backfield much, but over his three years in Detroit, Swift showed he can make an impact through the air, too.

TORY TAYLOR - PUNTER

Former Bears punter Trenton Gill was bottom-five in the NFL last year in several key areas, like net yards/punt, touchback rate and rate of punts inside the 20-yard line. So the Bears used a fourth-round pick to draft the consensus top punter in this year’s class. Taylor is highly-touted for his rare mix of power and finesse. The Bears think he can be a weapon and can set up the defense in highly-favorable situations by pinning opposing offenses deep in their own territory.

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