These undrafted rookies could be names to watch heading into Bears training camp.
The Bears have gotten some solid production from undrafted free agents over the years.
In the last decade alone, players like Bryce Callahan and Cameron Meredith have taken on solid roles upon signing with Chicago after not being selected in the NFL Draft. Key contributors like Jay Hilgenberg, Ed Sprinkle, Leslie Frazier and James “Big Cat” Williams have starred for the Bears in the past, as well.
Those players are pretty high bars for a undrafted free agent to reach, but the Bears hope they can replicate a little bit of that magic with their group from the 2022 draft cycle. They have a handful of intriguing rookies on their roster whom they signed after the selections had concluded, and with a team looking to get younger, the undrafted free agents should have a chance to make an impression.
There are other UDFAs who all bring various talents to the table, but these 5 players are among those who could make an impact in training camp and, potentially, parlay that into a strong preseason and a spot on the Bears’ active roster.
Of the Bears’ undrafted free agents, a strong argument could be made that Jack Sanborn has the easiest path to make their active roster.
Sanborn was a three-year starter at Wisconsin who displayed a high football IQ, a rugged demeanor on the field, and good physicality in between the tackles. He was incredibly productive in 2021, finishing the season with 89 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and 5 sacks in 13 games. He is a reliable tackler with good play strength at the point of contact and ideal pad level when he breaks down and wraps up with ball-carriers.
Though he doesn’t offer top-notch athletic traits for a modern-day linebacker, Sanborn is a high-floor player who would fit in well as a backup MIKE for the Bears who can shine on special teams. Chicago’s linebacker room doesn’t have a true roster lock outside of Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow, and with the other players at the position not having much NFL experience either, Sanborn should have a serious opportunity to not only make the team, but to also see some playing time on defense.
The general expectation is that the Bears will have a run-heavy approach when compared to the rest of the league, so it would make sense for them to keep tight ends on the roster who can block well.
Enter Chase Allen, a four-time second-team All-Big 12 tight end who brings plenty of value as a run blocker. The 6-foot-6, 251-pounder has a 92nd percentile wingspan at 82.5 inches and plays with a nasty edge when he makes contact with opposing defenders. The placement in his strikes is consistent, and he has the raw size and power to overwhelm smaller opponents. He also has solid fluidity as a pass-catcher across the middle of the field.
Allen won’t wow anyone as a route runner with his struggles getting low entering his breaks, which limits his value a little bit. However, he’s a big-bodied tight end who can block very well, and seeing as though the Bears don’t have tremendous depth at the position behind starter Cole Kmet, a younger talent like Allen could provide more upside than a veteran option like Ryan Griffin or James O’Shaughnessy.
The Bears may have selected four offensive linemen on Day 3 of the 2022 draft, but they also signed an intriguing undrafted free agent in Jean Delance.
Delance was a three-year starter at Florida who projects as a solid fit in Chicago’s new scheme. He is a mobile athlete with good lateral agility for an offensive lineman and solid acceleration off the snap. He offers tremendous length with a wingspan of 86.5 inches, which allows him to lock defenders out from his frame and hold them up at the point of attack. Though his collegiate experience comes at tackle, he could also project as a guard candidate, as well.
The infusion of youth that the Bears have up front means that it could be tougher for Delance to make the active roster, and he has some technical issues he’ll need to clean up. Time will tell if he makes the team, but a player with his pedigree seems like a strong practice squad candidate at the very least.
Arguably the biggest enigma of the bunch, Allie Green IV is a cornerback with serious tools who didn’t get to showcase them much last year.
Green transferred to Missouri after four years at Tulsa, including a 2020 season in which he looked like a future NFL draft pick. He played in 12 games for the Tigers last year but only started in 6 in a loaded secondary. He is a physical cornerback with long arms and a determined mindset when making contact through a receiver’s stems, as well as being a capable tackler and a competitor at the catch point.
There isn’t much high-end athleticism with Green, and he can be a split second too late to pick up on route concepts. He seems to be a bit of a longshot to make the active roster, but he is the Bears’ biggest defensive back at 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds. If the new regime doesn’t feel too tied to holdovers from last year like Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor, they could be willing to inject some size and strength into their secondary by keeping Green around.
Carson Taylor is the only player on this list the Bears signed after the first initial wave of undrafted free agent signings, but he has already made an impression in workouts.
The first time many fans heard of Taylor was in June, when the word got out that he gave Teven Jenkins trouble in drills. He’s not just a practice wonder, though: he has some seriously good college tape. Taylor finished his career at Northern Arizona with 19 sacks and 36 tackles for a loss, and he dominated at the FCS level with his impressive first-step quickness, legit 4.5 speed, very good mobility and high motor.
Taylor is a bit smaller for a base 4-3 defensive end at 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, and he has the likes of Charles Snowden, Sam Kamara and Dominique Robinson to battle for a roster spot with. Whether he makes the team remains to be seen, but a player with his level of explosiveness off the edge seems to be worth keeping in the organization to some capacity.