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The Bears have made it official with a series of moves today to reach the 53-man roster limit before proceeding to the start of the 2009 season. The players will get back to work with practice Monday at Halas Hall. Here are the moves reported on the team's Web site:

CB Charles Tillman was promoted from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster

RB Kevin Jones was placed on inured reserve with a torn ligament in his left ankle

DE Henry Melton was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury

S Dahna Deleston was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury

Melton's ankle injury was not believed to be serious and it could be a way to stash the fourth-round pick from Texas on the squad for a year. The problem is he cannot practice while on IR so the only work he can do is in the classroom and weight room. This marks the third time in four years the Bears have placed at least one draft pick on IR prior to the opening of the season. It could be concerns about depth on the interior of the line cost him a spot as the Bears kept tackle Matt Toeaina, who right now figures to be third in the rotation at nose tackle.

Here are the official cuts:

QB Brett Basanez
FB Jason Davis
FB Will Ta'ufo,ou
WR Eric Peterman
WR Brandon Rideau
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
DE Ervin Baldwin
DE Joe Clermond
LB Marcus Freeman
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
CB Rudy Burgess
CB Rod Hood
CB Marcus Hamilton
CB Woodny Turenne

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We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.

Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple

Others

Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal

Projected depth chart

McKie

2009 salary cap numbers

Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666

Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1

Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1

The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.

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Things have slowed down a little with the conclusion of rookie minicamp but the mail is still being delivered. We'll make it Five Down Territory for today after a long weekend. Let's get right to it.

Q: So I'm starting to come down from draft overload and I looked up a few things on this fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou the Bears signed. People seem to be pretty high on him. Does this kid have a shot to unseat Jason McKie?

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: You might be aiming a little high to begin with. Let's focus on Ta'ufo'ou's chances to make the 53-man roster, first. He's an interesting guy who got a decent amount of publicity before the draft as the blocking back at Cal the last two seasons for Jahvid Best and Justin Forsett. Only two fullbacks ended up being drafted according to NFL.com and that left Ta'ufo'ou looking for an opportunity. A league source said he turned down more lucrative free-agent offers elsewhere because of the possible opportunity the Bears offered. The Bears remain happy with the veteran McKie, who started eight games last season but missed the final five with a bad quad pull. He's been banged up a little bit the past two seasons but there are not plans in the works to replace him as far as we know. Don't forget Jason Davis is on the roster also. He started three games while McKie was sidelined and played for offensive coordinator Ron Turner at Illinois, so he's familiar with the offense. To make the roster, Ta'ufo'ou is at least going to have to leap frog Davis. We say "at least'' because there is no guarantee the Bears will keep two fullbacks on the roster. They've gone with one at times, and they have done so recently because they lean heavily on double tight-end formations, which provide them with some able blockers. One thing Ta'ufo'ou has working against him is his size. He was listed at 5-11, 253 pounds in school, and after watching him in minicamp over the weekend, he might not be that big. Not according to this eye test, any way. So that is going to be an issue. Ta'ufo'ou was productive in college, he's considered a good leader and strong worker, so we'll see what happens. It's a position with a lot of injuries and anything can happen. At this point, we don't see McKie being beat out but there is a long way to go.


After a series of phone calls across the league we have put together a list, no doubt partial, of the free agents the Bears have agreed to terms with on contracts. The club holds a three-day rookie minicap starting Friday and they like to have it run as close to a normal camp setting as possible, so that means lots of players on the field. With only nine draft picks, expect for dozens more to show up at Halas Hall. Some come on a tryout basis, some are priority free agents and some get nothing to sign.

Here are the eight names we have tracked down this far:

Eric Peterman, WR, Northwestern. Peterman had a terrific pro day back in March and ran himself into an opportunity with a 40-yard dash time under 4.5 seconds. He'll look to punch his ticket by proving he can make a difference on special teams.

Mike Rivera, LB, Kansas. Rivera didn't perform as well during his senior year at Kansas as he did in previous seasons but he had a good showing at his pro day when Bears scout Teddy Monago was in attendance. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds and his 38 1/2 inch vertical jump was eye opening. Rivera had interest from other teams but chose the Bears for the opportunity. Perhaps he could get in the mix on the strong side if he really excels.

Dahna Deleston, SS, UConn. Deleston isn't going to solve any issues at free safety but agent Ed Wasielewski said he has the ability to make an impact on special teams quickly.

Will Taufoou, FB, Cal. The Bears landed one of the better fullbacks that was in this draft. Taufoou had interest from more than half of the teams in the league, including some with money offers, but chose the Bears because he liked the opportunity on the roster. Check out this video of him catching a pass out of the backfield.

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