We're now a mere two weeks away from the first training camp of the 2013 Chicago Bears season and we're geared up for the first 53-man roster prediction. I went through last year's 53-man roster to get a handle on how many players at each position Emery might keep this year. This wasn't an easy process because of the unpredictability of the last few spots.
I wanted to add some perspective to this roster and how it might change heading into the 2014 off-season because the Bears will have so many free agents. One report I heard this week had the Bears with 44 players essentially signed to the equivalent of one year contracts. While that is true in theory not all of those 44 players will be on the final 53-man roster.
There is however a significant number of players that remain who are on one yar contracts that will likely make the final roster. There are 28 out of 53 spots on the likely final roster that will be free agents at the end of the 2013 season. That makes up a little over half of the roster of starters and primary backups who may not return for the 2014 season.
Anyway here is the roster break down as a I see it working out after training camp.
The Bears will keep three QBs on the active roster this time around:
QB Jay Cutler 2014 Josh McCown 2014 Matt Blanchard 2015
Blanchard could potentially be the only quarterback who returns for the 2014 season. Although that seems very unlikely because the Bears obviously don't have a very stable QB situation if they don't re-sign Cutler to a long term contract.
At the running back position things are interesting because there's long term stability potential but the Bears could also jettison Michael Bush because his contract number is more manageable after 2013.
Matt Forte 2016 RB Michael Bush 2016 RB Armando Allen free agent 2014
Allen may play for a one year deal in 2014 to see if he can return in 2015 to be the primary backup to Matt Forte. Bush's contract is easier to part ways with in 2014 because he won't be carrying any dead money towards the salary cap. I imagine this position won't change much if Bush is productive in this offense behind Forte.
I suspect the Bears will keep six wide receivers on the roster with the notable absence being that of Devin Hester. Hester's cap number is just too big and his value simply isn't there anymore to justify the cost. Hester will be cut and the Bears' receiver depth chart will look like the following:
WR Brandon Marshall 2015 Joe Anderson 2014
WR Alshon Jeffery 2016 Eric Weems 2016
WR Earl Bennett 2016 Devin Armomashodu 2014
Weems makes the roster as the primary return man with help from Armando Allen at this position as well. Joe Anderson should emerge and Armomashodu is a down the field veteran presence that Cutler has been a big fan of. Long term prognosis sees Marshall and Jeffery here for a while as well and a need for an influx of youth and talent at the position. That will likely come in the form of Marques Wilson who the Bears will easily be able to stash on the practice squad as he rounds into NFL shape both physically and mentally.
The only thing keeping Earl Bennett on the 2013 roster is the lack of experienced depth beyond the top two wide receivers. Bennett has no consistent production and he can't stay healthy. Emery likely seethes that his predecessor signed Bennett to an extension.
The offensive line is where things get most interesting because there's a youth movement afoot and there some veterans here that need to compete to keep their jobs. Emery spoke about how the competition will be so fierce in training camp along the offensive line, but it won't shape out I feel as many expect it to. I don't foresee Eben Britton or Jonathan Scott remaining on the roster so their one year contracts don't matter much. The offensive line breakdown should look like this in 2013:
LT Jermon Bushrod 2018
LG Matt Slauson 2014
C Roberto Garza 2014 Edwin Williams 2014
RG Kyle Long 2018 James Brown 2015
RT J’Marcus Webb 2014 Jordan Mills 2017
There is one story line to follow here during training camp have nothing to do with the previously mentioned to players. The question here is will James Brown push veteran Matt Slauson for the starting left guard spot. Slauson isn't the athlete Brown is, but he is a good pass blocker and a veteran presence. Can the veteran keep his starting spot simply on experience, or will the younger hungrier more athletic youngster supplant him? This to me is the true competition no one is talking about because Brown has all the tools to be a starter and it appears he's made big strides this off-season. I don't suspect Slauson would be cut, but he might be relegated to a backup role behind the two youngsters.
Elsewhere there's the potential for large turnover on the offensive line after the 2013 season with half of the depth chart here becoming free agents after the season. The Bears need to find a center somewhere to groom and prepare because Roberto Garza likely won't be re-signed. Will they make a run at a player in free agency given they'll have plenty of money under the cap? This seems to be the most likely scenario.
Kyle Long and Jordan Mills represent the future at positions neither one will start out at as rookie. Long will start at guard while Mills will start at tackle and both seem better suited for the other positions respectively.
J'Marcus Webb will be playing for a long term contract as the Bears' starting right tackle. If Bushrod goes down I expect Webb will slide over to the LT spot and you may see the rookie Mills take over at RT. Bushrod has been highly durable throughout his career so I don't sense it will be a problem now.
The tight end position could wind up with three to four players remaining on the roster much like there were four players retained last year. Although the Bears didn't keep a true fullback last year and they might this year in Tony Fiammetta.
TE Martellus Bennett free agent 2017 Steve Maneri 2015 Fendo Onobun 2014 Kyle Adams 2014
Martellus Bennett is the only true stable player on the roster who has a spot the roster. When the Bears cut Evan Rodriguez it blew things wide open behind Bennett, and if Bennett winds up injured, instability could reign. Fendi Onobun has shown flashes in t-shirts and underwear but he's an athlete so he's expected to do that. He'll have to continue to develop when the pads go on and he becomes one of the primary receivers during the preseason slate. Kyle Adams should have his best chance yet in his third year here in Chicago to show that he can be a competent all around backup. There have been subtle signs from Adams each year in Chicago, now it's just a matter of pulling ahead of the competition to claim his spot.