GM Ryan Pace knows that the Chicago Bears may have to get a little more creative in order to find help for their roster this offseason. Not only do they have no 1st or 2nd round picks for the upcoming draft. They also have limited cap space due to their high spending last year in locking up big names like Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson among others to long-term deals.
Often in these situations, teams will try to get by with cheap free agents, late round picks, and undrafted free agents with the hope somebody becomes an unexpected contributor. However, Pace has made it clear he won’t limit the Bears to just those avenues. Already the team has signed two players from the Canadian Football League.
Now according to Larry Meyer of ChicagoBears.com, the team has several eyes on the brand new Alliance of American Football (AAF). Their mission is simple. Monitor the league over the coming weeks and keep watch for any players that stand out.
“Our pro scouts are all over that,” said Bears general manager Ryan Pace. “We had pro scouts at their training camps that we sent down there. It’s really too early to say how many players are going to come out of there [and join NFL teams], but we’re going to be looking closely at it like we do every league.”
Chicago Bears AAF search could yield some nice depth options
Don’t be roped in by the romanticism too much. It’s not like the Bears will have a chance to find a hidden superstar. The entire league is made up of NFL castoffs and college players who never made it there in the first place. No, that league will help to uncover names who might have something to offer from a depth perspective. Players who might not have gotten a fair shake during their brief stints in the big league.
Here are a few names that have stood out thus far that could be of such value to the Bears.
Rashad Ross (WR, Arizona Hotshots)
The team has been sniffing around wide receivers since the offseason began. They met with several at the Senior Bowl and one of their CFL signings played the position as well. With Kevin White likely gone and Josh Bellamy a free agent, they may be on the lookout for options there. Rashad Ross is a former undrafted free agent who kicked around the NFL as a receiver and kick returner. He never really got a legitimate chance to play during that time.
Then in his first game for Arizona, he goes off for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Tre Jackson (OG, Orlando Apollos)
It’s important to remember that both of the primary backups at guard for the Bears, Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush, are free agents this year. There’s a chance one of them is re-signed. Maybe both. Still, there is also a chance neither is for one reason or another. In that case, the team would be seeking out alternatives.
Tre Jackson is a former 4th round pick of the New England Patriots. He started nine games for them in 2015 and was part of their Super Bowl championship team a year later. He’s been tutored by one of the best in the business in Dante Scarnnechia and finished his first AAF game without allowing a single pressure on the quarterback.
Damontre Moore (EDGE, San Diego Fleet)
Everybody knows how crucial getting to the quarterback is in football. That’s why there’s never been such a thing as too many pass rushers on defense. The Bears have a great one in Mack and a decent one opposite him in Leonard Floyd. After that? It’s a bit of a question mark. Aaron Lynch had injury issues last year and is a free agent. Sam Acho missed most of the season with an injury as well. Their depth options are questionable.
That’s why they had to be intrigued seeing Damontre Moore explode for nine pressures and two sacks in his first game with the AAF. The guy always had talent. He was a former 3rd round pick for the New York Giants and had 5.5 sacks in 2014. For whatever reason he just never turned the corner, becoming a journeyman for a number of years before hopping to the new league. The crazy thing is? He’s still only 26-years old.
The last clip is ironically the AAF's first sack. Damontre Moore is too quick for the OL and uses a textbook rip move to get free and get another sack. He is probably the best player on the @AAFFleet defense, but the DL group as a whole looked to be the best group on the team. pic.twitter.com/pB2u9FWqY1
— Zachary Gartin (@The_Sideline10) February 14, 2019
Marquez White (CB, Orlando Apollos)
Remember the name? Probably not but seasoned NFL scouts and executives will. White was a 6th round pick of the Dallas Cowboys back in 2017. He spent two years with the teams. During that time he spent two offseasons with them and one on their practice squad but never got a chance to see the field. Nobody picked him up after that until Orlando came calling.
Did Dallas make a mistake? It’s hard not to see it that way. In his AAF debut, White was suffocating. The opposing offense targeted him eight times but managed just one completion. White has size and physicality that teams look for but his primary issues were said to be fundamental. Hence why this run in Orlando may be perfect for him.
Nick Novak (K, Birmingham Iron)
Yeah that whole Cody Parkey kicking nightmare is still a thing. Until he’s off the roster, no Bears fan is going to feel comfortable about what’s to come in 2019. The problem is the team isn’t in a position to spend big there, either in the draft or free agency. So perhaps their best option is to seek out a short-term solution. Like a veteran with a proven background?
For a period of time from 2012 to 2016, Nick Novak was one of the better kickers in the NFL, connecting on 127 of 145 total field goal attempts (87.6% accuracy rate). However, he struggled in 2017 and never got another opportunity due in large part to being 36 at the time. So he went south, signed with Birmingham, and has hit his first four field goals in the AAF.