For those fans and pundits who were expecting the Chicago Bears’ back-up quarterback battle to last through the end of the preseason, this weekend’s release of Jordan Palmer from the roster surely came as a shock.
With the competition now over and Jimmy Clausen in the fold as the back-up to Jay Cutler, the attention turns to the other quarterback remaining on the roster, as David Fales will play the entire game against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday. Marc Trestman says that Clausen could come in to finish things up if he needs to, but the team’s reasoning behind having Fales play all four quarters seems pretty clear: show us what you’ve got.
The real question that the Bears face as the deadline to trim their roster down to 53 players comes ever closer is this: what should they do with Fales? The team only carried two quarterbacks last season, cutting Palmer loose before the end of training camp, but this year’s situation is a bit different. While Palmer wasn’t in the team’s long-term plans if he wasn’t the back-up, Fales was a sixth round draft pick, and he is looked at as a potential developmental player for the future that Trestman can work with and mold.
The issue then is whether or not to keep him on the roster, or to cut him and try to stash him on the practice squad. If the Bears could just do that, it would make their lives much easier, with a slew of injuries still lingering that are going to make every roster spot critical. Unfortunately, by cutting Fales the Bears would expose him to the waiver wire, and with how quickly Palmer was snapped up by the Bills, there is a possibility that a team looking for a quarterback to groom may swipe him from under the Bears’ noses.
So should the Bears take the risk of losing Fales by putting him on waivers? The benefit of having an extra roster spot to play with is surely enticing, with several offensive linemen still hurting and with wide receiver Marquess Wilson on the shelf for at least the first few games of the season, but is it worth it?
Ultimately, the Bears will probably choose to keep Fales on the 53-man roster and will make their other cuts elsewhere. It’s possible that they could view the defensive line as a place to keep one fewer player than usual, with Lamarr Houston often subbing in at defensive tackle in nickel packages, or they could just keep two tight ends instead of three, with Matthew Mulligan getting the boot.
They could also keep only four safeties, with MD Jennings likely on the hook in that scenario.
Whichever way the Bears end up choosing to go with Fales, they will be taking a chance. If they cut him, they could lose him on waivers. If they keep him, it means making themselves a bit thinner at another position. These kinds of decisions are made every year in the NFL, but it doesn’t make them any easier.