Caleb Williams

2024 Bears' way-too-early depth chart, roster projection after NFL draft

With some areas still needing to be addressed, here's a way-too-early Bear depth chart projection after the NFL draft

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The 2024 NFL Draft delivered the Bears their franchise quarterback and an injection of hope and optimism that this will be the dawn of the next great era in franchise history.

General manager Ryan Poles selected quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Rome Odunze in Round 1, bolstered the offensive line depth with Kiran Amegadjie in Round 3, gave the special teams a jolt with punter Tory Taylor in Round 4, and bet on upside with defensive end Austin Booker in Round 5.

With the Bears' draft class official, it's time to turn our attention to the offseason program. Phase 1 started on April 15. Rookie minicamp will take place on May 10-11 with OTAs starting May 20.

As the Bears start to ramp up the offseason program, here's a way-too-early look at the project depth chart with the caveat that the Bears will look to add players to the roster throughout the summer and into training camp.

Here's the Bears' latest depth chart projection with OTAs a few weeks away:

Quarterback (3)
Starter: Caleb Williams
Backup: Tyson Bagent
On the bubble/Emergency QB: Brett Rypien

The Bears' future finally arrived Thursday when they selected Williams with the No. 1 overall pick.

The next few months will be all about Williams learning the playbook, perfecting the ability to digest calls in the headset and spit them back out in the huddle, and developing chemistry with his teammates and staff.

Bagent enters the offseason program as the presumed backup. He had some good moments last year during his four-start run while Justin Fields was injured. Bagent said he would use the offseason to become more "dynamic" as a thrower. The Bears like Bagent's work ethic and potential,

Rypien, whom the Bears signed to a one-year contract this offseason, will compete for the backup job but will likely fill the emergency quarterback slot occupied by Nathan Peterman last season.

Running back (4), Fullback (1)
Starter: D'Andre Swift
RB2: Khalil Herbert
RB3: Roschon Johnson
RB4: Travis Homer
FB: Khari Blasingame

The Bears signed Swift at the opening bell of free agency to take over as their starting running back. Swift is coming off a 1,000-yard season with the Philadelphia Eagles and is a much more reliable threat as a pass-catching threat than Kerbert or Johnson.

I expect Herbert to start the offseason program as Swift's primary backup as a veteran courtesy, but Johnson will push him.

The second-year back out of Texas didn't have the impact he wanted in Year 1, but the Bears still have high hopes for him after drafting him in the fourth round last April.

Homer gave the Bears valuable special teams snaps last season but will fight for a spot this summer.

Wide receiver (6):
X: DJ Moore, Tyler Scott
F: Keenan Allen, Dante Pettis
Z: Rome Odunze, Velus Jones Jr.
Others on roster: Collin Johnson, Nsimba Webster (future contract)

Four locks are on here with the three big names -- Allen, Moore, and Odunze -- and Scott. Scott still needs to refine his route-running, but his speed should be more of a weapon in Year 2, with the Bears' trio taking most of the defensive attention.

Moore, Odunze, and Allen are all versatile receivers who can play inside and out. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will undoubtedly move them around, but for the purposes of this exercise, I'll label them by them as such.

Allen played 59 percent of his snaps in the slot last season (F), but he'll be WR2 on the Bears' depth chart.

It might be easier to visualize it like this:
WR1: DJ Moore
WR2: Keenan Allen
WR3: Rome Odunze
Depth: Tyler Scott, Dante Pettis, Velus Jones Jr.

For now, I went with Pettis as the No. 5 guy due to value as a punt and kick returner.

Jones will be on the bubble this summer. He hasn't developed as the Bears had hoped in the two years since being drafted in the third round, and the number of critical errors he has made is something the 2024 team can't afford to tolerate. If there isn't significant improvement this offseason, I have a hard time seeing him make the roster. For now, Jones gets the final spot. I don't think that will be the case once we get to August.

Tight end (3)
TE1: Cole Kmet
TE2: Gerald Everett
TE3/Bubble: Stephen Carlson (FC)

Kmet and Everett will form arguably the best tight-end tandem in the NFL.

Carlson is the only other tight end on the roster. After last season, the Bears signed him to a reserve/future contract. Once camp rolls around, they'll add a few more bodies to that room.

Offensive line (9)
LT: Braxton Jones, Matt Pryor, Kiram Amegadji
LG: Teven Jenkins, Ja'Tyre Carter
C: Ryan Bates, Coleman Shelton
RG: Nate Davis, Ja'Tyre Carter
RT: Darnell Wright, Matt Pryor
Others on roster: Larry Borom, Aviante Collins (FC), Jerome Carvin (FC), Doug Kramer (FC), Bill Murray (FC)

This is another group that seems pretty settled.

The Bears brought in both Bates and Shelton this offseason. The two will compete for the starting center spot in camp, but early indications are that Bates will start the offseason program as the top guy.

Pryor gives the Bears valuable depth at tackle and guard. Carter gave up five pressures and one sack in 175 snaps last season. He's an OK depth piece but might be on bubble watch once the training camp additions are made.

Borom hit a playing-time contract escalator in his rookie contract and is owed $3.12 million in 2024. That'll likely be too much for a backup tackle, making Borom a roster bubble lock.

The Bears drafted Amegadjie in the third round. The Yale product is a raw, toolsy tackle who will need to be developed. Poles said he doesn't envision Amegadjie pushing Jones for the starting tackle position in Year 1, but they hope the rookie can provide depth at both tackle and guard positions.

Defensive line (7)
DE1: Montez Sweat, Austin Booker
NT: Andrew Billings, Zacch Pickens
3T: Gervon Dexter
DE2: DeMarcus Walker, Khalid Kareem (FC), Dominique Robinson
Others on roster: Byron Cowart, Jacob Martin, Daniel Hardy (FC), Michael Dwumfour (FC)

If there is a weakness on the Bears' roster, it's the defensive line depth.

After coming over from Washington via a midseason trade, Sweat proved he was a legitimate star pass-rusher and not just a product of the talent around him in D.C. Walker is a valuable, rotational edge who kicks inside on third down. Billings was the main reason the Bears' run defense went from abysmal in 2022 to first in the league last season.

The Bears lost Justin Jones to free agency and have yet to replace him on the interior. Head coach Matt Eberflus expects a Year 2 leap from Dexter and Pickens, but the Bears still need to find one more rotational body on the interior.

Booker is a raw edge rusher who should provide rotational value in Year 1 as he develops, but the Bears could use another reliable rusher on the edge.

Could a cheap reunion with Yannick Ngakoue be in the cards? Veteran Calais Campbell would be a valuable addition, given his versatility inside and outside. Carl Lawson is another potential option for a late-summer deal.

Kareem and Robinson are both young, cheap defenders who know the defense. They slot into two of the final roster spots here but will be on the bubble or on the outside looking in all summer.

Linebacker (5)
SAM: Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell
MIKE: Tremaine Edmunds, Amen Ogbongbemiga
WILL: T.J. Edwards, Amen Ogbongbemiga
Others on roster: Micah Baskerville (FC)

There should be no drama with this group.

Expect Sewell and Sanborn to battle for the starting SAM position during training camp, but Sanborn will open the offseason program as the clear starter.

The Bears signed Ogbongbemiga in the offseason to be a core special teams player and provide linebacker depth.

Secondary (11)
LCB: Jaylon Johnson, Terell Smith
RCB: Tyrique Stevenson, Jaylon Jones
Nickel: Kyler Gordon, Josh Blackwell
FS: Kevin Byard, Elijah Hicks
SS: Jaquan Brisker, Jonathan Owens, Tarvarius Moore
Others on roster: Greg Stroman Jr., Quindell Johnson, Adrian Colbert (FC), Douglas Coleman (FC)

Once again, this is the Bears' best position group.

Johnson ascended to elite cornerback status last season and got rewarded for his efforts with a four-year contract extension. Gordon made a massive leap during his sophomore season, and the Bears expect him to continue to rise and become one of the NFL's best slot corners this season.

Stevenson had some growing pains during his rookie season, but he showed growth during the back half of the campaign. The Bears are bullish on both he and Smith.

The Bears signed Byard to replace Eddie Jackson this offseason. The veteran safety is durable and a clear upgrade in coverage over Jackson.

Brisker played well during his sophomore season, but the Bears expect a bigger leap from him in Year 3, both on the field and as a locker room leader.

Specialists (3)
K: Cairo Santos
P: Tory Taylor
LS: Patrick Scales
Others on roster: Trenton Gill, Corliss Waitman (FC), Cameron Lyons (FC)

The Bears drafted Taylor during the fourth round on Saturday. He'll replace Trenton Gill, who was statistically one of the worst punters in the NFL last season.

Santos and Scales are as reliable as they come at their respective positions.

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