Khalid Kareem

Why Bears chose new DE Khalid Kareem over Trevis Gipson and Terrell Lewis

In the battle between Gipson and Lewis, nobody won

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One of the biggest debates surrounding the Bears as roster cuts approached was what the team should do with their final defensive end spot. Dominique Robinson and Rasheem Green were safe, since they continued to take higher-leverage reps despite ho-hum production in the preseason. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said the team liked the consistency each man brought in practice. One rung down the depth chart, Trevis Gipson and Terrell Lewis each made their share of splashy plays both in practice and preseason action. However neither man could climb past Robinson or Green on the reps ladder, and it became clear that they were the ones fighting for the last spot. 

Should they keep Gipson, the man they pegged as DE1 last season, the man who notched seven sacks as a rotational player in 2021? Or should they keep Lewis, a Ryan Poles hand-picked pass rusher who improved noticeably over the summer and displayed impressive speed coming around the edge?

In the end, both of them lost. 

The Bears waived Gipson on Tuesday as they trimmed to their initial 53-man roster. One day later they waived Lewis. The winner turned out to be Khalid Kareem, a waiver pick up from the Colts.

Bears brass got a chance to check out Kareem up close when they participated in joint practices with the Colts earlier this month, and he caught their eyes.

“I saw him play the run well a couple times and also saw his motor,” head coach Matt Eberflus said. “I really liked his motor. It runs hot. He’s a great effort player. He’s very physical. So we like that about him. And we’re excited about developing him in our system.”

At the end of the day, the Bears believed Kareem was a better scheme fit for the defense they run. In Gipson’s case, they think he’s better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, like he did during his seven-sack 2021 campaign, rather than playing defensive end in their 4-3 scheme.

“He did a lot for us, just in terms of the leadership and who he was, showed up everyday,” said assistant GM Ian Cunningham. “We just wanted the best situation for him and ultimately that was the decision we came to.”

The Bears liked what Lewis brought as a pure pass rusher, but they don’t want pure pass rushers on the edges.

“I feel like Kareem showed a little bit more of what we were looking for in terms of playing the run, playing the pass,” Cunningham said. “He showed a little bit more of the scheme fit that our defensive staff was looking for.”

The Bears aren’t looking for Kareem to come in and immediately push for major snaps. Nobody should expect double-digit sacks from him, since he’s going to be playing a rotational role behind Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Robinson and Green to start. He’s entering his fourth year in the league, has played in 27 games with one start and has one sack. For now, the Bears just want Kareem to come in and do his job.

"I don't think anybody has said 'Hey we need you to be a superhero,’” Kareem said. “Just do your thing, be the best you can be at your role, at your position.”

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