Lost in the shuffle of the Bears making Cody Parkey’s release officially official was a series of transactions that will certainly have implications for the 2019 Bears, even if their names might fly under the radar.
The Bears have tendered contracts to Roy Robertson-Harris, Isaiah Irving, and Rashaad Coward for the 2019 season. These three players were the team’s three exclusive-rights free agents. Unlike other restricted free agent, players who fall under this umbrella (who have played less than three accrued NFL seasons) can only negotiate and sign contracts with their current team. And with that, the Bears are bringing back three important depth pieces to their roster. Good stuff!
Robertson-Harris set new career-highs in games played and defensive snaps in 2018, and made the most of his opportunities by picking up 3 sacks, 22 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss, and 11 quarterback hits. The three-headed monster of Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, and Bilal Nichols at the defensive end spot opposite of Akiem Hicks kept the front line of the Bears defense fresh throughout games, which paid off in the long run by having fresh legs down the stretch.
Irving stepped in and held his own filling in for outside linebacker Sam Acho as a reserve pass-rusher and core special teams contributor. It’s been a heck of a climb for Irving, an undrafted free agent in 2017 who landed on the practice squad after being one of the final cuts, only to jump back into the mix when Willie Young suffered a season-ending injury. As of right now, Irving is the Bears’ first option off the bench as a pass-rusher behind Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd on the depth chart.
Coward spent the entire 2018 season on the Bears’ 53-man roster, but did not appear in a game last season. In a way, 2018 was a redshirt year for Coward. Last spring, the Bears moved the former nose tackle to the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. Coward got his feet wet during the preseason as he took snaps as the Bears’ right tackle on their reserve units. He figures to continue to get action there and at guard in 2019.
Adding to the team’s depth was expected to be a priority for the Bears now that the new league year has the team officially open for business. Save for offensive lineman Ted Larsen, Chicago hasn’t made brought in any outside signings other than cornerback Buster Skrine, running back Mike Davis, and wide receiver/return specialist/all-purpose stud Cordarrelle Patterson. So with that in mind, I suppose it’s a good thing the team has prioritized retaining their own players and securing depth in that way.