The trade for Brandon Marshall and the free-agent signings of Eric Weems and Devin Thomas have given the Bears one top-tier wide receiver and two others who have caught NFL passes, but whose chief value is on special teams.
It also have given them a crowded situation on game days when there are only so many players at any position who can be included on a game-day roster.
The Bears have generally gone with five wide receivers active, sometimes six. With a more balanced mindset under Mike Tice as coordinator, five is more likely. So, do the math:
Marshall, Thomas and Weems are active. So is Devin Hester. Thats four.
Earl Bennett. Thats five.
Roy Williams has not been expected back as a re-signing. And Johnny Knox will not be ready for at least the start of the season, very possibly all of it depending on the recovery curve for his back injury.
The flex factor right now is Dane Sanzenbacher, a nugget found in the pool of undrafted free agents. Sanzenbacher was active for every game and finished fourth in receptions with 27 and second in touchdown catches with three.
But with all the new kids coming in, playing time for Sanzenbacher may be difficult to find.
As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.
Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
6'3" | 253 lbs.
61 tackles, 12 TFL, 9 sacks
"High-cut pass rusher with good athleticism but concerns regarding his ability to drop anchor against the run. Ironically, Harris might be best suited as a penetrator which is something he fought against this season. His hands can be improved as pass rush weapons, but he has agility and footwork that can't be taught. Harris can play on the edge in a 4-3 or 3-4 front and should be the next in a line of early contributing defensive ends coming out of Missouri." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Video analysis provided by Rotoworld and NBC Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.
Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles
PHOENIX – Brandon Marshall never needed a whole lot of encouragement to step before a microphone but the NFL, which sometimes wished he'd put a sock in it, has now invited the former Bears wide receiver to speak up.
The NFL extended an invitation for Marshall, whose time in Chicago ended in some measure because of his insistence on pursuing the media portion of his career, to address the league higher-up's ostensibly as part of a communications bridge-building. Marshall jumped at the chance.
"They thought it was important for a player to come up and give a player's perspective and talk about the relationship between owners and players," Marshall said on Monday at the outset of the NFL owners meetings. "I think it's evident that our relationship could be so much better."
Marshall has been part of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" in recent years, flying to New York to participate in taping the show, and ultimately accepting a trade from the Bears to the Jets in 2015, which obviously cut down on his commute. The Jets released Marshall earlier this month, after which Marshall signed on with the Giants.
He told owners this week, "If we want our game to continue to be on that [positive] track, that it's on being super successful and being a pillar in our community and being a thread in our community, we have to make sure our relationship as players and owners is good."
[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]
The immediate response was more than a little positive: Per San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York:
Marshall predictably welcomed the forum and wants to see it expanded.
"I'd like to see more players be more involved in our owners meetings," Marshall said. "And not only at the owners meetings, but any time we're talking football, we should have players at the table. Commissioner Goodell is always open-minded. He always has that open-door policy. So I think he'll continue to listen and continue to evolve this part of our business."