With 62 players currently under contract, the Bears will be able to sign seven undrafted free agents following the draft provided they stay with 11 draft picks,
Rosters have been capped at 80 now for the offseason after NFL Europa closed up shop and it’s an important thing to take a look at, a decision by owners at their meetings earlier this month that may prove to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Very foolish.
The Bears benefited as much as any club from the developmental league in Europe. No, they never found Kurt Warner slinging touchdowns overseas, but they got the most out of the roster exemptions the league provided for training camp. Players from Europe were exempt and didn’t count against the 80-man limit. So, the Bears could carry 85, 86, 87 and maybe even a few more players to Bourbonnais with them every July.
What’s another half-dozen players or so you ask? Sometimes it’s the difference between a routine practice and one cut short by injuries. It’s a scramble by all 32 teams to sign linemen on both sides of the ball as essentially camp fodder. You need bodies on the line to run practices when injuries mount and when veterans are given occasional days off to limit wear and tear. It’s happened to Lovie Smith as it happened to Dick Jauron ... when bodies got low on the line, practices had to be adjusted. And that was with the additional players you could bring to camp. When roster cuts were made to 65 in training camp, the exempt Europe players were still exempt, so you could carry 70-some bodies into the final preseason games.
The Bears have already been in contact with prospective free agents—a lot of players they brought into Halas Hall on official pre-draft visits are players they will consider in this realm—and the team will work as fast as possible once the draft ends to get contracts faxed and signed.
Dave Toub’s special teams unit figures to be affected. If you’re looking for more linemen that could cost him a camp leg. Robbie Gould is the only kicker under contract right now. Glenn Pakulak has been signed to compete with punter Brad Maynard. Maybe Pakulak will get to do some kicking as well.
The club may leave some spots unfilled. The Bears will bring in several undrafted free agents on a tryout basis during rookie minicamp and usually they look to sign a few out of this bunch.