One aspect of the annual NFL teams offseason mission statement is to build both the quality of a roster as well as the quantity. That means not only depth but specifically depth that is good enough to either contend for a starting job or replace a starter without precipitous falloff.
The Bears, in Phil Emerys first offseason as a general manager, have added not only volume to the roster, but also players who come in not as starters, but could be.
The latest is linebacker Geno Hayes, signed to a one-year deal after starting 42 of 56 games played at weakside linebacker in four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hayes succeeded longtime Pro Bowl fixture Derrick Brooks in Tampa and is a speed addition at 6-1, 226 pounds.
The Bears previously signed guard Chilo Rachal, a one-time starter for the San Francisco 49ers. Kelvin Hayden was a starting cornerback with the Indianapolis Colts with a stop in Atlanta last year before signing with the Bears. Brandon Marshall obviously was a starter-plus for Denver and Miami. Corner Jonathan Wilhite started 17 games over his five NFL seasons.
Jason Campbell was a starting quarterback with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. Michael Bush started nine games last season for the Raiders. Devin Thomas started 11 games over his four seasons.
In 2011, Hayes started 13 of 16 games played, finishing third on the team with 86 tackles and seven tackles for losses, adding one interception and two forced fumbles.
The knock on Hayes, and why the Bucs were willing to let go of a one-time starter, was maturity and discipline, one NFL source told CSNChicago.com. He made flash plays but was prone to taking chances all pointing toward a big upgrade to special teams.