Velus Jones

Bears WR Velus Jones On Roster Bubble

The Bears figure to have an improved receiving corps in 2023 given the team’s moves at the position this offseason. One returning member of the unit could face a signficant challenge to remain on the roster during training camp, however.

Velus Jones will need to prove his worth as both a kick and punt returner during the remainder of the offseason, writes Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic (subscription required). Jones was a third-round pick last year, something which was met by some with surprise given his age (25) at the time, and raised expectations for him both on offense and special teams as a rookie. The Tennessee alum was used as a receiver, rusher and returner, but his main impact was in the latter category.

Jones totaled just 210 scrimmage yards on offense, seeing limited opportunities in a Bears offense which featured more established players ahead of him on the depth chart and which was among the league’s most run-heavy. He did find success in the kick return game, though, recording 607 yards on 22 runbacks (good for an average of 27.6 per return).

With respect to punt returns, though, veteran Dante Pettis occupied the Bears’ lead role. He returned 18 punts for 163 scoreless yards, and that special teams position is one he would likely be limited to in 2023 if he were to remain in the Windy City following roster cuts. Jones figures to have a higher overall upside and is under contract for the next three years, but Fishbain notes he will need to put together a notable training camp performance to avoid finding himself a cut candidate.

Chicago’s WR room is of course topped by D.J. Moore, part of the return the team got from the Panthers in the blockbuster trade involving this year’s No. 1 pick. Moore was a must-have for the Bears in large part due to his contract status, and his addition should boost what was the league’s least-productive passing offense in 2022. When at full health, Chicago will also have Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown and fourth-round rookie Tyler Scott available at the receiver spot.

If he remains a gadget-type player on offense, Jones will be hard-pressed to earn much in the way of playing time and touches this season. With a role mostly limited to special teams, the presence of Pettis could lead to a legitimate competition for a single returner role. As a result, Jones’ footing on the Bears’ roster may not be as secure as his age and draft stock would initially suggest heading into Year 2.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/23/22

Tuesday marked the day teams were forced to cut down from 85 to 80 players. Here are the moves teams made made to reach the new maximum. Players who land on the reserve/PUP or reserve/NFI list must miss at least the first four regular-season games.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

NFC North Notes: Vikings Front Office Hire, Hundley, Jones, Alexander

New Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a noteworthy addition to his staff earlier this week. The team announced the hiring of Demitrius Washington as their new vice president of football operations.

Washington had spent seven years with the 49ers, a stretch which overlapped with Adofo-Mensah’s time in that organization. For the past two seasons, Washington served as San Francisco’s director of research and development, the same title Adofo-Mensah held with the Browns prior to his hire. The pair will now reunite and, along with new head coach Kevin O’Connell, oversee the franchise’s transition from the previous Rick Spielman-Mike Zimmer regime.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC North, starting with one more from Minnesota:

  • The Vikings brought in veteran backup quarterback Brett Hundley as a tryout during rookie minicamp, but they made it clear they would not be signing him, as noted by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. The 28-year-old hasn’t made a regular season appearance since 2019, most recently spending time with the Colts. Minnesota’s QB room currently consists of Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley.
  • The Bears used one of their 11 picks in last month’s draft to add to its receiving corps, selecting Velus Jones in the third round. The team is high on his speed and versatility, leading to the new coaching staff having “big plans” for the 25-year-old. “Let’s start out at receiver and then let’s see what he can do, moving him around to different spots and getting him the ball, because he is an explosive athlete” head coach Matt Eberflus said, via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. After transferring from USC to Tennessee, Jones produced both on offense and special teams, recording 807 receiving yards and leading the SEC in both punt and kick return yardage in 2021.
  • An interesting note came out in the aftermath of Jaire Alexander‘s record-breaking extension with the Packers. USA Today’s Josina Anderson reports (on Twitter) that the Pro Bowler specifically wanted a four-year (rather than five-year) deal. He got just that, helping him to break the record briefly held by Denzel Ward for the highest annual average amongst cornerbacks at $21MM per season, and keeping him under contract through 2026.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/17/22

Here are the latest draft pick signings around the NFL:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts