The Bears on Thursday officially announced that they have acquired receiver Dontrelle Inman via a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a conditional 2018 draft pick.
Inman, who will wear No. 17 with the Bears, has appeared in 41 games with 23 starts the past four seasons with the Chargers, catching 107 passes for 1,463 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Everybody has had this feeling before, the feeling of being wanted,” Inman said. “It’s always good at any point in time, any career you have, being wanted. That’s just the nature of us; anytime you’re wanted, if it’s a girlfriend, a wife, anything, so it’s been great.”
To make room on their roster, the Bears waived inside linebacker Jonathan Anderson.
Inman passed his physical Thursday but did not practice. However, the 28-year-old is expected to work out with his new teammates Friday and could play in Sunday’s game in New Orleans.
“He seems like a really bright guy,” said coach John Fox. “He’s been in the league long enough. He’s been in some complex systems, some similar systems. We’ll have to evaluate that. We’ll have a chance to practice him tomorrow and see what he looks like.”
Inman is confident that he’ll be able to learn the offense quickly.
“When I was out there, I was reading the script. I was like, ‘OK, this is 2007. This is 2009.’” Inman said. “It’s a whole bunch of concepts I’ve been in before. When I was at Virginia, I had five receivers coaches, four offensive coordinators and two head coaches, so there’s really not an offense I haven’t been in.”
Inman traveled a unique path to the NFL. He entered the league with the Jaguars in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia, but failed to make Jacksonville’s 53-man roster.
Inman then joined the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts in 2012 and helped the team win the Grey Cup championship as a rookie. After playing a second season in Toronto, he signed with the Chargers in 2014 as a free agent.
This season, Inman had just two catches for nine yards while playing behind talented receivers Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.
“It was cool,” Inman said. “If you think about it, the last four years I’ve been there, we’ve always brought two or three guys in at receiver. It’s always been stacked. That’s the way Philip [Rivers] likes it. He likes to dart, dart, dart. That’s the quarterback he is.
“For me, you walk into the facility, you do what you do. You don’t complain. You don’t think about the next man. You just think about what you can do to get better.”
With the opportunity to play more with the Bears, Inman hopes to revert to the form he displayed with the Chargers in 2016 when he set career highs in all receiver categories with 58 receptions for 810 yards and four TDs while starting all 16 games.
“I improved as a receiver,” Inman said. “I improved as a leader. When Keenan [Allen] when down, when Stevie [Johnson] went down, [receivers] coach Nick [Sirianni] told me, ‘You have to step up. You’ve got to be a leader.’ And that point, I was like, ‘I actually can lead a little bit,’ so it was great.”
The Bears are counting on Inman to bring veteran leadership to their young, injury-depleted receiving corps. Cameron Meredith (knee) and Kevin White (shoulder) are on injured reserve, while Markus Wheaton remains sidelined with a groin injury.
No Bears wide receiver has more than 20 catches through seven games. Kendall Wright leads the group with 20 receptions for 236 yards and one touchdown. The other healthy receivers on the 53-man roster are Joshua Bellamy (10-114-0), Tanner Gentry (3-35-0) and Tre McBride (1-18-0).
“Hopefully I can just add to it,” Inman said. “Great group of guys. They’re young, talented, so just help them. Let them pick my brain and I can pick their brains too. No matter how old or how much of a veteran you are, you can always learn from someone or something.
“It’s a great opportunity because it actually challenges yourself to be there, to hold yourself accountable. So I can’t just go and say, ‘Hey, you need to run like this, catch like this.’ It’s a great opportunity for me to learn, coach myself and just help others.”