With final cuts out of the way, the Bears scanned the players released by the rest of the league and made two additions to their roster which I’ve covered below. Also, as of this afternoon none of the players cut by the Bears have been claimed by other teams. Which means that all of the young players released by the Bears are available to add to the practice squad. There is also an interesting rumor that the Bears may sign a three-time Pro Bowl player from an NFC North rival. It’s been a busy day for the Bears and I’ll cover all the moves below.
C Eric Kush (Rams) – A 6th round pick of the Chiefs in 2013 from small school California (PA). Kush showed good versatility in college playing left tackle, right tackle, and center, where he was an all-conference selection as a senior. He’s played only center in his brief NFL career appearing in three games as a rookie with one start. Kush then bounced around the league, spending time with the Bucs, Panthers, and Texans before ending up on the Rams last season and playing in seven games.
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My guess is that the Bears signed Kush to replace Cornelius Edison as the backup center and perhaps provide depth at guard if needed. Edison struggled all preseason, including getting knocked on his backside by rookie LB Joe Schobert in the 4th preseason game which led to a sack. Edison will most likely head back to the practice squad, while Kush and his impressive tank top collection will backup starting center Ted Larsen.
CB Cre’von LeBlanc (Pats) – I wrote yesterday about my concern for the Bears depth at cornerback after they cut De’Vante Bausby. The signing of LaBlanc helps a bit, though at 5’9, 194 pounds, he’s much smaller than the 6’2 Buasby. Despite his lack of height, LeBlanc is a very physical corner, known for his press coverage skills. I was high on LeBlanc coming out of the draft and thought he would be a solid day three pick for the Bears.
LeBlanc ended up going undrafted but was signed as a priority UDFA by the Patriots. His lack of height and top-end speed (4.65) probably kept LeBlanc from being drafted, but he was a very productive corner at Florida Atlantic allowing just a 34.5% completion rate on passes thrown his way despite being matched up against other team’s top wide receivers.
He’s too short to play outside, but is very strong for his size and excels at jamming slot receivers at the line of scrimmage. He also returned kicks in college, but with his lack of speed I’m not sure he’ll add any value there at the NFL level. Regardless, this was a good signing for the Bears and a player I think could have a future as a sub-package NFL corner.
The Bears will need to release two more players to add Kush and LeBlanc to the roster. The moves haven’t been announced yet, but my guess is C Cornelius Edison and CB Sherrick McManis (wishful thinking). CB/S Demontre Hurst is the more likely release since he plays a similar style as LeBlanc and the Bears seem to over-value McManis’ special teams coverage.
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Packers guard Josh Sitton, a three-time Pro Bowl player (2012, 2014, 2015), was surprisingly released yesterday and his first free agent visit is today with the Bears. Adding Sitton would give the Bears arguably the best guard combo in the league with Kyle Long.
I’m not sure what the Bears would do with rookie 2nd round pick Cody Whitehair, but they could use him as depth at both guards spots and even right tackle which he played in college. It might set back Whitehair’s development a bit, but the Bears have very little O-line depth and Whitehair would give them a versatile player who could fill in at multiple positions.
It’s not often teams get a chance to sign a guy coming off two consecutive Pro Bowls who is still near his prime, 30 years old, and perhaps looking for revenge against his former team. Let’s hope the Bears don’t let him leave town without a contract today.
CB DeVante Bausby – My least favorite cut yesterday managed to make it through waivers and end up back on the Bears practice squad. Whew. Tall corners with the speed to cover are hard to find and the Bears were lucky to keep Buasby in the organization. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Buasby on the Bears roster by mid-season.
LB John Timu – Not a surprise as Timu’s struggles in coverage limit him to a 2-down ILB. He is a good locker room presence though, gives max effort on the field, and is a very effective run stopper. If Timu can improve his coverage skills, he may be back up with the Bears but for now he’s better off on the practice squad.
WR Daniel Braverman – It’s not official yet, but Brag Biggs of the Tribune is reporting that Braverman will be joining the Bears practice squad. He struggles in the preseason games, but was one of the most impressive receivers in training camp. The potential is there for Braverman to be a solid slot receiver and with Eddie Royal’s injury issues, we may see Braverman on the Bears roster early in the season.
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NT Terry Williams – I don’t know what the Swamp Monster has to do in order to make the team. He’s been productive for two consecutive preseasons and this year got his weight under 320 as per the Bears request. The Bears don’t have a legitimate nose tackle to back up Eddie Goldman and Williams could fill that role if given a chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams is looking for an opportunity with another team as the Bears don’t seem to consider him a viable option.
TE Ben Braunecker – With the Bears lack of tight end depth and no receiving talent at the position behind starter Zach Miller, it is just a matter of time until Braunecker sees the field with the Bears. Assuming of course that they sign him to the practice squad. He hasn’t been claimed by another team yet which leads me to beleive it’s just a matter of time till he joins the proactice squad.
CB Tavese Calhoun – Tough, physical corner with good size (6’1, 205) and the ability to contribute as a run stopper. He needs to improve his man coverage skiils and some time on the practice squad could make Calhoun a possible contributor in 2017.