Bears Secure Veteran 15,000-Yard QB as Backup for Caleb Williams

Chicago Bears ramp up competition in quarterback lineup.

by Faizan Chaudhary
Bears Secure Veteran 15,000-Yard QB as Backup for Caleb Williams
© Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears are bolstering their quarterback lineup, signing former Western Kentucky standout Austin Reed to potentially serve as the backup to their new first-overall draft pick, Caleb Williams, for the upcoming 2024 season.

Reed, who comes to the Bears as an undrafted rookie free agent following the conclusion of this year's NFL draft on April 27, succeeded Bailey Zappe—New England's 2022 fourth-round pick—as the Hilltoppers' quarterback.

In his tenure, Reed racked up 8,084 yards and contributed to 83 touchdowns, including 12 on the ground, over two seasons. Although Reed might require some development, the Bears are well-acquainted with this process, having successfully molded Tyson Bagent into a backup role in 2023.

Bears' Backup Battle

The Bears' strategic pick of Williams as the top draft choice clearly indicates they are not in the market for a starting quarterback. However, the upcoming training camp will be critical as Reed joins a competitive group, including Bagent and veteran Brett Rypien—a recent free agent acquisition—both vying for the backup spot.

The decision on who will secure this role remains a key focus of the preseason activities. Despite not officially announcing the signing yet, the team’s history suggests the official confirmation of Reed and other undrafted rookies might be expected soon, mirroring last year's timing.

Reed's arrival is particularly noteworthy given the Bears' recent success with undrafted free agents, exemplified by Bagent’s ascent last year. Originally brought in as an extra arm for training camp, Bagent surpassed expectations by securing a roster spot over competitors and eventually claimed the backup position midseason due to his performance, even starting four games in place of an injured Justin Fields.

The example set by Bagent last season could pave the way for Reed, demonstrating the Bears' openness to letting any team member compete for significant roles. Although Reed is more likely battling for the third-string quarterback position against Rypien, the dynamics within the Bears’ roster could propel him into a more prominent role depending on his preseason performance.

Adding intrigue, Williams publicly showed his enthusiasm for Reed's joining, sharing Pelissero’s report on social media with a playful comment, reflecting a positive reception within the team. As the Bears focus on developing Williams, the conversation about backup quarterbacks remains pertinent, especially considering the relative inexperience of Bagent and Rypien, who have only started four NFL games each.

While the team could consider adding a more seasoned quarterback, options are limited. Ryan Tannehill, the most notable available veteran, likely doesn’t fit the Bears’ current strategy, having struggled last season with Tennessee and unlikely to accept a non-starter role at a lower salary.

With few viable free-agent quarterbacks left and Teddy Bridgewater now retired, the Bears might need to rely on their current roster depth or consider trades if they aim to strengthen their quarterback lineup further, making this offseason a pivotal time for team strategy and player development.

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