QuarterbackJay Cutler, Caleb Hanie, Brett Basanez
Needless to say, Cutler was acquired by general manager Jerry Angelo to solve an ongoing problem at the game's most important position, and No. 6 will likely be given a lucrative contract extension in the next calendar year. Hanie has come a long way from being undrafted out of Colorado State last year, as he'll be the immediate backup to Cutler. Basanez has been hit-and-miss throughout the offseason program, but he's good enough to serve as a No. 3.
While the Bears threw around the idea of only keeping two signal callers on the roster last year, they ultimately went with three and should do the same this season.
Running BackMatt Forte, Kevin Jones, Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson, Jason McKie
The coaching staff felt the need to keep four tailbacks this past season, and the same four appear to be safe heading into 2009. Look for Jones to get more time on the field as a way to keep Forte fresh down the stretch, while Wolfe and Peterson both play important roles on special teams. McKie continues to be a solid player and is the sole fullback worth keeping.
Davis was only around as long as he was last year because McKie got banged up a bit, and Taufoou isn't ready to make the jump from college to the pros.
WR Brandon Rideau
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Wide ReceiverDevin Hester, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis, Brandon Rideau, Juaquin Iglesias, Johnny Knox
This is far from a star-studded cast of pass catchers, but there is safety in numbers – holding on to six of them is the right thing to do. Look for Bennett to win the starting job opposite Hester in training camp and Davis to keep getting work in the slot, but rookies Iglesias and Knox could threaten for increased playing time later in the schedule. If Rideau can't make a contribution this year, then he never will.
Kinder is a draft pick and would likely be given a spot on the practice squad, but the other three are expendable in every sense of the word.
Tight EndDesmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Kellen Davis, Michael Gaines
The addition of Gaines via free agency during the offseason threw a monkey wrench into the mix, but only having one fullback means there should be room to hold on to four tight ends. If the 6-4, 277-pound Gaines can line up at fullback here and there, even better. Clark and Olsen are one of the better combos in the league and will help ease Cutler's transition to his new team, while Davis is too talented to give up on after just one season.
CUT: Fontel Mines
Mines was a feel-good story in 2007, eventually being elevated to the 53-man roster despite being a non-roster invitee to rookie minicamp only a few months earlier, but his development has hit a wall.
Offensive LineOlin Kreutz, Frank Omiyale, Roberto Garza, Orlando Pace, Chris Williams, Josh Beekman, Dan Buenning, Kevin Shaffer
Not only should the starting five be improved from a season ago, but Bears fans can be much more confident with the depth available in the trenches. Beekman, Buenning, and Shaffer have all been starters in this league – both Beekman and Buenning can line up at center and guard, while Shaffer can play either tackle. If Pace has some of that Pro Bowl ability left in the tank, this unit could be a pretty good one.
Balogh and Louis are both quality candidates for the practice squad, while Reed's stint in the Windy City mercifully comes to an end.
DT Anthony Adams
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Defensive TackleTommie Harris, Anthony Adams, Marcus Harrison, Dusty Dvoracek, Jarron Gilbert
Because the Bears like to rotate their D-linemen and Harris is still coming back slow because of recurring knee problems, keeping five tackles is a wise move. Harris, Harrison, and Gilbert can all play the three technique, while Adams and Dvoracek take care of the nose tackle. The rookie Gilbert might be an end before it's all said and done, but there is a greater need for depth at tackle right now.
CUT: Matt Toeaina
Even though he made some plays in 2007 after being plucked off the Cincinnati practice squad, there is no room for Toeaina since he was a game-day inactive almost all of last year.
Defensive EndAlex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Israel Idonije
Brown and Ogunleye are once again entrenched in the starting lineup for this season, but it's next season when there could be a seismic shift at this position. While Idonije was just given an extension, both Ogunleye and Anderson are going into the last year of their deals and fighting for a future in Chicago. Anderson in particular needs to prove he can get the job done as a pass rusher, so perhaps new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli can help him recapture the magic he had as a rookie in 2006.
Angelo felt the need to snag Melton in Round 4 because he was rising up draft boards, so he could very easily be stolen by another team if he's put on waivers.
LinebackerBrian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Jamar Williams, Nick Roach, Marcus Freeman
After the acquisition of Tinoisamoa, the leading tackler in St. Louis last year but only the No. 3 man in Chicago, linebacker might be the deepest position on this team. Williams is having a terrific offseason program and could start for a lot of clubs around the NFL, but he'll be a backup at all three spots in addition to his work on special teams. After starting for the second half of 2008, Roach can't beat out Tinoisamoa and pairs up with Williams on the coverage units.
Hillenmeyer no longer has a place on the depth chart since he's not much of a special teamer, and Freeman has more upside than LaRocque at this point.
CB Zack Bowman
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CornerbackCharles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Danieal Manning, Zack Bowman, D.J. Moore
Should Tillman and Vasher both avoid the injury bug, the coaching staff is hoping they can get back to where they were in the division-title seasons of 2005-06: among the best corner tandems in football. Manning is essentially a corner now after failing at safety, as he'll continue to be the nickel back and kick returner. Bowman has a lot of potential and saw some first-team reps throughout OTAs when Tillman was sidelined, and Moore was a premier talent in the draft who fell to the fourth round.
McBride has fallen out of favor after playing reasonably well as a rookie in 2007, while Turenne has looked pretty good as an undrafted free agent and is worth adding to the practice squad.
SafetyKevin Payne, Craig Steltz, Corey Graham, Josh Bullocks
With captain Mike Brown no longer patrolling center field, both safety positions will need somewhat of a makeover this season. Payne now gets to play strong safety – that's where he's most comfortable – on a full-time basis, and Steltz will be given first crack to replace Brown at free safety. But Graham is surprisingly being moved from corner, meaning he could supplant Steltz in the starting lineup if the Bears want to get their four best defensive backs on the field.
There is no room for the oft-injured Earl even though he was a free-agent signee, but Afalava can get some experience on the practice squad.
SpecialistsRobbie Gould, Brad Maynard, Patrick Mannelly
The Midway Monsters should once again have some of the better special teams in the league. Gould is still yet to connect on a field goal of 50 yards or longer in his career, but he's automatic from inside 40 and knows how to make the necessary adjustments at Soldier Field. What Maynard lacks in flat-out leg strength he makes up with pinpoint accuracy, and Mannelly simply never makes a mistake.
Unlike previous years, the Bears don't even have a backup kicker or punter on the offseason roster because they don't need to waste anyone's time.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.