The Bears, like all NFL teams, made final cuts Friday night to get down to the 53-man roster limit. The word “final” is such a fluid term as teams will continue to shape their rosters before the start of the season. However, here is a look at the 2012 Chicago Bears 53-man roster as it currently stands.
NOTE: Defensive tackle Nate Collins (not included below) does not count against the Bears’ 53-man limit because he is suspended for the first game due to violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
(2): Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler
The Bears elected to go the route that a handful of teams in the NFL are choosing to go by keeping just two quarterbacks on the active roster. With so many tough decisions to make elsewhere on the roster, I think this was a wise move. For instance, the Bears needed that extra spot for an additional punter. Protecting Jay Cutler this season is more imperative than simply for the success of the offense; it’s for its survival as well. Jason Campbell, a starting-caliber quarterback, is one of the best backups in the league.
(3): Lorenzo Booker, Michael Bush, Matt Forte
The final roster cuts were largely devoid of any major surprises, but the coaching staff’s decision to keep Lorenzo Booker as the third running back comes as a little bit of a surprise. Lovie Smith singled out Armando Allen as a player he wanted to see more of when the team parted ways with Kahlil Bell before the third preseason game, and although Allen played well, the Bears liked what Booker offered better. I had been quietly rooting for Booker to make the final roster and I’m glad he did. It’s good to have a shifty veteran back with special teams ability bringing up the bottom of the depth chart.
(6): Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Dane Sanzenbacher, Eric Weems
The only question about the receiving corps prior to cutdown day was whether the Bears would choose to keep six, as they have in the past, or five, and use the extra roster spot at another position of need. The Bears chose the former and awarded Dane Sanzenbacher the sixth spot on the depth chart. Sanzenbacher expressed willingness to do whatever he needed to do to make the roster, including contributing much more on special teams. His spectacular touchdown grab against the Browns and his ringing endorsement from Cutler surely helped his cause as well.
(4): Kyle Adams, Kellen Davis, Evan Rodriguez, Matt Spaeth
The decision to keep four tight ends does not come as a surprise and it was widely rumored to be a certainty for quite some time. Rather than keep a traditional fullback, which seems to be going the way of the dodo in the NFL, offensive coordinator Mike Tice prefers to use tight ends he can move around and line up in different positions, including as the lead blocker in the backfield if need be. The Bears have liked Kyle Adams the past two years and his versatility gave him the coveted roster spot.
(8): Gabe Carimi, Roberto Garza, Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal, Chris Spencer, J’Marcus Webb, Chris Williams, Edwin Williams
With offensive line perhaps the biggest question mark on the team, the Bears elected to go with just eight at the position, which is not uncommon nor a surprise considering Chris Williams is versatile enough to play four of the five positions along the line. The one roster cut of note is the team let go of offensive tackle James Brown, whom they were high on as an undrafted rookie free agent. He was a long shot to make the final roster but there were questions as to whether he’d make it back to their practice squad or latch on with another team.
(9): Israel Idonije, Shea McClellin, Henry Melton, Cheta Ozougwu, Stephen Paea, Julius Peppers, Brian Price, Matt Toeaina, Corey Wootton
Last year the Bears kept 10 defensive linemen, and with Nate Collins added to the mix as of Week 2, the Bears will have that many along the defensive line. The ideal scenario is that punter Adam Podlesh would be ready to go by the Packers game and the Bears can give Ryan Quigley’s roster spot back to Collins, but that remains to be seen based on the uncertainty of the severity of Podlesh’s injury. I was pleased to see Cheta Ozougwu — Mr. Irrelevant of the 2011 NFL Draft — make it through final cuts. Ozougwu flashed some good pass rushing moves in both training camp and the preseason and the Bears felt it’d be good to keep him around and see if he can develop. How long Ozougwu remains with the team is a mystery. There were reports Friday that former Bear Amobi Okoye was close to resigning with the team after being cut by Tampa Bay. The Bears also kept Corey Wootton, who has been a contributor on special teams but hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to regularly contribute on defense. And they kept Brian Price, whom they traded a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay to acquire, a player with a lot of potential who carries a lot of baggage.
(7): Lance Briggs, Blake Costanzo, Geno Hayes, Nick Roach, J.T. Thomas, Patrick Trahan, Brian Urlacher
Last year, the Bears kept five linebackers. This year, with questions about Brian Urlacher’s health in addition to special teams contributions, the Bears have kept 7. Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Nick Roach — the presumable opening day starters if Urlacher can play — were locks, along with Geno Hayes, who is filling in as a starter in Urlacher’s stead, and Blake Costanzo, a special teams standout. J.T. Thomas, in his second year, and Patrick Trahan managed to hang on to spots.
(5): Kelvin Hayden, Tim Jennings, Sherrick McManis, D.J. Moore, Charles Tillman
Perhaps the biggest surprise at cornerback was that neither rookie, Isaiah Frey nor Greg McCoy, made the final roster. Neither one showed enough promise on either defense or special teams to warrant a position on the active roster. Either could be a candidate to return to the practice squad. To fill the depth chart, the Bears traded fullback Tyler Clutts to the Houston Texans for cornerback Sherrick McManis. Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are the starters as of now with D.J. Moore at nickelback. A hungry veteran Kelvin Hayden could simultaneously push both Jennings and Moore for playing time.
(5): Chris Conte, Jeremy Jones, Craig Steltz, Anthony Walters, Major Wright
A position of great intrigue due to injures to Chris Conte and Brandon Hardin — who has since been put on injured reserve — the Bears chose to keep five players at safety, including Jeremy Jones, who made a fantastic, athletic interception against the Browns Thursday night. Anthony Walters looked like a virtual guarantee to make the roster after Hardin was lost for the season and after Walters has contributed on special teams and has made strides on defense. Major Wright and veteran Craig Steltz are the starters at the moment until Conte can return to the lineup.
(4): Robbie Gould, Patrick Mannelly, Adam Podlesh, Ryan Quigley
After bringing in several veteran punters for tryouts, the Bears ultimately chose to keep rookie Ryan Quigley after he performed well enough to close out the preseason in Adam Podlesh’s absence. Podlesh had previously not ruled out a return for the season opener, so how long Quigley remains with the club is uncertain. Robbie Gould and Patrick Mannelly, of course, are mainstays.