Bears Committed To Tyson Bagent As Backup Quarterback

Tyson Bagent made the rare climb from the Division II level to seeing rookie-year starts as a quarterback. Although the Bears have changed offensive play-callers since Bagent’s cameo in relief of Justin Fields, they remain committed to the former UDFA.

Chicago certainly changed up its QB room this offseason by making the unsurprising move to draft Caleb Williams first overall. The team added Brett Rypien, who is now entering his sixth NFL season. The Rypien move is not expected to affect Bagent’s status, with The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain noting there does not appear to be a competition for the Bears’ QB2 post (subscription required). As the only Bears QB returning from 2023, Bagent should not expect a change to his role.

Rypien could settle in as Chicago’s emergency third QB. Another tweak to the NFL’s rule involving emergency passers will allow teams to stash their emergency option on the practice squad and elevate that player continually. Teams will not need to pass their QB3s through waivers. Waivers would not apply to Rypien, who is a vested veteran, but the Bears would take a risk if they kept Rypien and exposed Bagent to waivers come August. But based on how the Bears structured their reps during their offseason program, Fishbain points to a clear Williams-Bagent-Rypien hierarchy — with Rypien on the practice squad as the emergency QB — being in place.

Bagent beat out both P.J. Walker and Nathan Peterman to be Fields’ top backup last year. His early work, as could be expected, featured some stumbles. While Bagent averaged only six yards per attempt and closed his four-game starter offering with three touchdown passes and six interceptions, the Bears did win two games with the Shepherd alum at the controls. Bagent also completed 65.7% of his passes, though he has been tasked with developing in new OC Shane Waldron‘s system.

Chicago added Rypien on a one-year, $1.1MM deal that includes no guaranteed money. The former Broncos backup spent the 2023 season with three teams. The Rams waived him after a rough start in Green Bay, and he made his way to the Seahawks’ practice squad — under then-Seattle OC Waldron — before the QB-needy Jets plucked him for their 53-man roster to close the season.

The Bears are currently carrying four QBs on their 90-man offseason roster. Rookie UDFA Austin Reed represents the least experienced option; he appears to be vying for a P-squad gig. The 16-man taxi squad era (since 2020) has given teams more flexibility, but even with the expanded P-squads and the recently reimplemented emergency-QB rule, carrying four passers has not been standard practice. Reed and Rypien may well be competing for one spot.

Reed spent the past two seasons as Western Kentucky’s starter, taking over for Bailey Zappe in the Hilltoppers’ pass-happy system. Reed’s numbers did not match Zappe’s record-setting 2021 slate — though, he did throw 71 TD passes from 2022-23 — but he did enough to convince the Bears to add him post-draft. It would still be a stretch for the Bears to use two young UDFAs as Williams’ backups; Rypien’s experience would stand to benefit him given the current Chicago QB room’s makeup.

Bagent can be retained on a rookie deal, through the ERFA and RFA channels, through 2026. The Bears could form a steady QB1-QB2 arrangement for a few years, should the second-year player keep impressing as the backup arm. Training camp represents Bagent’s next window to do so, but barring a significant step back, it appears the backup gig is his to lose.

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