Bears make moves to get roster down to 53

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) catches a 6-yard pass for a touchdown as Chicago Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden (24) comes in from behind during the first half of an preseason football game in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew Nelles)

The Bears used the majority of their allotted time on Saturday to get their roster down to 53 players, waiving a total of 15 players and terminating the contracts of three vested veterans.

But who Marc Trestman elected to keep as the Bears prepare for the season opener against the Bills next weekend may have been as big of a story as who was let go.

After much discussion over who would be Matt Forte’s primary backup at running back, the Bears elected to keep four backs on the roster. While rookie Ka’Deem Carey and Shaun Draughn were considered the primary candidates to relieve Forte, undrafted rookie free agent Senorise Perry also made the final 53-man roster, providing the Bears with a full contingent of running backs.

In also what was viewed as a minor surprise, the Bears will start the season with three quarterbacks. After Jimmy Clausen edged out Jordan Palmer as Jay Cutler’s backup, rookie sixth-round draft pick David Fales was expected to be a solid choice for the expanded 10-man practice squad.

But following the preseason finale performance against the Browns Thursday night in Cleveland, Fales – who was considered by many as a long-term project after the Bears drafted him – grabbed a spot on the 53-man roster.

Among the veterans released Saturday were offensive tackle Eben Britton, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and defensive end Austen Lane. Safety M.D. Jennings was also waived with an injury settlement. Others who were waived included receivers Josh Bellamy and Dale Moss, center Taylor Boggs, defensive tackles Brandon Dunn, Lee Pegues and Tracy Robertson, linebackers Jerry Franklin and DeDe Lattimore. Guard Ryan Groy and cornerbacks Al Louis-Jean and C.J. Wilson were also released.

Hayden was attempting to make the Bears roster after missing the entire 2013 season. But his chances of moving forward dwindled between the combination of a less than stellar preseason and Demontre Hurst getting a lot of work in the Bears nickel package.

An impressive showing throughout training camp and the preseason by Sherrick McManis also helped seal Hayden’s fate, along with that of Louis-Jean, who was also among those cut on Saturday. Wilson, who had two interceptions in the preseason and who had spent time on the Bears practice squad in 2013, was also released.

Lane, meanwhile, was hoping to stick as part of the Bears’ new-look defensive line, but remained on the bubble throughout the preseason. Perhaps a deciding factor was also Cornelius Washington’s contributions on special teams, which made the second-year pro a better option in the long run.

Franklin had become a key member of the Bears' special teams units, and he played in 10 games last season, but the Bears saw enough to go with the potential that undrafted rookie Christian Jones possesses, and may have not wanted to risk exposing him to waivers.

If Chris Williams is thinking about a “what if,” he should look to the fact that the Bears used Eric Weems on returns to start the preseason against the Eagles. In that first game, Williams was due to get his shot, but pulled his hamstring on a 72-yard touchdown catch.

The injury kept Williams out of the next two preseason games, and he didn’t show a great deal in his opportunities against the Browns in the preseason finale, finishing with 81 yards on three returns). Williams finished the preseason with four catches for 94 yards.

With Williams waived, the Bears are set to open the season with Micheal Spurlock and Santonio Holmes as their primary returners. Holmes, who was signed after training camp, had an impressive 30-yard punt return against the Browns. Even so, the Bears likely will examine other options on waivers on Sunday.

Britton missed nearly a month with a hamstring injury suffered early in camp. He played in 22.2 percent of snaps last season, mainly as a sixth offensive lineman. The Bears could wait until after the regular season opener against the Bills if they wanted to bring Britton back, as a Chicago Tribune report suggested, and then his salary would not be guaranteed.

Seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr. benefitted by the release of Britton, joining Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente as the reserves up front. Boggs, who was the backup center last year, was waived, but may be an option to return to the practice squad.

Other options for the 10-man practice squad, which can be formed starting on Sunday, include Lattimore and offensive guard Groy. The Bears also waived Moss, safety Marcus Trice. Pegues and Brandon Dunn on Saturday.

Marquess Wilson is on the 53-man roster. If the Bears choose to place him on the injured reserve list with a designation to return, they can’t do so until Tuesday afternoon.

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