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How NFC North champion Bears were built

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It takes years to construct a winning football team. Countless hours of work go into scouting players to draft, analyzing potential trades and evaluating free agents.

“We’ll be a team that looks at every single avenue in improving our roster,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said on Jan. 9, 2015, shortly after being hired. “We’ll be aggressive in our approach, but I understand for the Bears to have sustained success we must build through the draft.”

Pace has stayed true to his word in engineering the first Bears team to reach the playoffs since 2010, building a roster that features 25 players that the Bears have drafted. The roster also has 17 players the team signed as free agents, five signed as undrafted college free agents and six acquired via trade or picked up on waivers.

As the Bears head into the playoffs, here’s a complete breakdown of how their 53-man roster was put together.

Drafted
The Bears have 25 players on the roster that the team drafted.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bears selected seven players, all of whom are still on the active roster. Chicago took linebacker Roquan Smith (Round 1, 8th overall), offensive tackle James Daniels (Round 2, 39th overall), receiver Anthony Miller (Round 2, 51st overall), linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (Round 4, 115th overall), defensive end Bilal Nichols (Round 5, 145th overall), linebacker Kylie Fitts (Round 6, 181st overall) and receiver Javon Wims (Round 7, 224th overall).

The Bears traded a fourth-round pick and 2019 second-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for the No. 51 pick, which they used to select Miller. The fourth-round pick Chicago used on Iyiegbuniwe was acquired in a trade with the Cardinals in 2017.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears selected five players. Four of Chicago’s draftees from that year are still on the roster and each has made an immediate impact in his first two seasons. The Bears traded four draft picks (three in 2017 draft, one in 2018 draft) to the 49ers to move up a slot to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall. Trubisky went on to set the Bears rookie record for passing yards and threw for more than 3,000 yards in his second year.

The trade to secure the second overall pick for Trubisky was one of many the Bears made during the 2017 draft. The Bears traded up five spots in the fourth round to take safety Eddie Jackson (Round 4, 112th overall), trading the 117th overall pick and a sixth-round pick to the Rams in exchange for a fourth-round selection spot. The Bears also made a deal with the Cardinals during the draft, sending Arizona the No. 36 overall pick in exchange for the No. 45 pick, No. 119 pick, No. 197 pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick. The Bears used the first two of those picks to take tight end Adam Shaheen (Round 2, 45th overall) and running back Tarik Cohen (Round 4, 119th overall).

The Bears had a big draft class in 2016 and made a handful of moves during it to secure their picks. Chicago selected nine players and seven of those picks are on the active roster today. The Bears traded pick No. 117 and a sixth-round pick to the Rams to jump up to take linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (Round 4, 113th overall). Chicago also traded the No. 49 pick in the second round for the No. 56 pick in which they took center Cody Whitehair (Round 2, 56th overall) and the No. 124 pick in which they selected safety Deon Bush (Round 4, 124th overall). The Bears traded their No. 11 overall pick and No. 106 overall picks to the Buccaneers to slide up in the first round to take linebacker Leonard Floyd (Round 1, 9th overall).

The Bears also selected defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Round 3, 72nd overall), linebacker running back Jordan Howard (Round 5, 150th overall) and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (Round 6, 185th overall) in 2015.

The 2016 Draft class recorded 3,390 offensive/defensive snaps that season, fourth most in the league that year. Howard set a Bears rookie record for rushing yards, and Floyd posted the third most sacks by a rookie in franchise history (7).

The Bears have three players on the roster from both the 2015 and 2014 drafts. In Pace’s first year overseeing the Bears’ roster in 2015, Chicago selected six players including receiver Kevin White (Round 1, 7th overall), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (Round 2, 39th overall) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (Round 5, 142nd overall). The Bears traded former receiver Brandon Marshall and a seventh-round pick to the Jets in exchange for the fifth-round pick they used on Amos.

In 2014 the Bears selected tight end Kyle Fuller (Round 1, 14th overall), punter Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 191st) and offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. (Round 7, 246th overall). To be able to take Leno, the Bears traded a fifth-round pick in the 2014 and 2015 drafts to the Broncos in exchange for a fourth-round pick and the seventh-round pick.

Chicago’s longest tenured player it has drafted on its roster is guard Kyle Long. The Bears used the 20th overall pick in the first-round take Long. It was the first time the Bears had taken a guard in the first round of the draft since 1960. 

Free Agents
This past year has been the busiest for the Bears on the free agency front. In March the Bears signed tight end Trey Burton, receiver Taylor Gabriel and kicker Cody Parkey to four-year deals. That month Chicago also signed receiver Allen Robinson II to a three-year contract, quarterback Chase Daniel to a two-year contract and linebacker Aaron Lynch to a one-year deal. Later during the year, the team signed defensive tackle Nick Williams and guard Bryan Witzmann. In December, the Bears signed veteran cornerback Marcus Williams.

In 2017 the Bears signed three free agents. In March, Chicago signed cornerback Prince Amukamara and running back Benny Cunningham. Two months later, the Bears signed offensive tackle Bradley Sowell.

In 2016 the Bears signed four free agents as part of 14 new players the team added to its roster that season. In the spring Chicago inked deals with defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, offensive tackle Bobby Massie and linebacker Danny Trevathan. Later in the year, the team signed tight end Daniel Brown.

In 2015 the Bears made only one addition through free agency among players still on the roster, signing long snapper Patrick Scales midway through the season.

College Free Agents
Five members of the Bears roster were not selected in the draft out of college and signed with Chicago as undrafted free agents. This past season, the Bears signed cornerback Kevin Toliver II as an undrafted free agent. In 2017, the team did the same with linebacker Isaiah Irving and offensive tackle Rashaad Coward. Tight end Ben Braunecker and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris signed in 2016 after going undrafted.

Trade/Waivers
Six members of the Bears current roster were acquired through a trade or via wavers.

Linebacker Khalil Mack was traded for just before the start of the 2018 regular season. The Bears traded first-round picks in the 2019 and 2020 NFL Draft, a third-round pick in the 2020 draft and a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Raiders in exchange for Mack and two future draft picks.

In 2017 the Bears claimed fullback Michael Burton and running back Taquan Mizzell Sr. off of waivers prior to the start of the season.

On Sept. 4, 2016, the Bears picked up guard Eric Kush off of waivers. The following off-season Chicago signed Kush to a two-year contract.

In April 2014, the Bears acquired receiver Joshua Bellamy. Bellamy originally was on the team’s practice squad but was promoted to the active roster after Week 1 of the regular season.

In 2012, the Bears acquired cornerback Sherrick McManis in a trade with the Texans. The Bears traded fullback Tyler Clutts in exchange for McManis. In 2016, McManis signed a two-year contract to stay with the Bears.

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