Bears Cut Veteran LB to Make Room for Taco Charlton

Taco Charlton

Getty The Bears released a veteran LB to make room for Taco Charlton.

The Chicago Bears received linebacker A.J. Klein in the Roquan Smith trade, and less than three weeks later, Klein has been waived.

According to the NFL’s November 16 waiver wire, the Bears parted ways with the veteran linebacker, who appeared in two games for the team, playing a total of nine snaps on special teams. On October 31, the Bears received Klein and 2023 second- and fifth-round picks from the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for Smith, who was a fan favorite in Chicago.

A 10-year NFL vet, Klein has played in 138 games over his career. In that span, he has tallied 454 total tackles (311 solo, 44 for loss), four interceptions, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 15.5 sacks (stats via Pro Football Reference).

Chicago let Klein go to make room on the roster for newly acquired pass rusher Taco Charlton.

Bears Plan to Use Charlton in Reserve Role

The Bears poached Charlton off the New Orleans Saints practice squad, and head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed the new defender’s role would be as a reserve pass rusher.

A first-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, the veteran defensive end spent his first two years in Dallas before getting released early in the 2019 season. He bounced around a bit after that, landing with the Miami Dolphins in 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021.

Last season in Pittsburgh, Charlton played in 11 games (one start) and contributed on 28% of the team’s snaps on defense. He finished with 18 total tackles, a pass defense, two quarterback hits and half a sack.

Charlton has yet to appear in a game this season, but he doesn’t think it’ll take him too long to learn the defensive scheme of head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams. Charlton knows Eberflus from their days in Dallas, as Eberflus was Cowboys linebackers coach in 2017, when Taco was a rookie.

“It shouldn’t take me long, just because it’s a defense I’m familiar with,” Charlton said shortly after joining the team. “A lot of the terminology is very similar to what I’ve heard before.”

Taco Charlton: I’ll Be Ready to Go, ‘Especially on Passing Downs’

“He’s a great coach,” Charlton said about Eberflus. “Knows the game at a high level, so I’m excited. It’s a good defense. It allows me to come off the ball and just play. … I’m very happy to be back in that defense where I just get off the ball and just go.”

When asked what Bears fans can expect to see from him, the defensive end replied: “I’m trying to make some plays, help this defense, help win some games — that’s really what I came here to do. Not really personal stuff, but really just help this team win, try to make some key plays to help this defense make some big turnovers and get us some W’s.”

He’s also open to playing anywhere on the line.

“Wherever you put me at I’ll be good to go, especially on passing downs,” Charlton said. “On passing downs I can rush anywhere. I can rush inside, outside, I can rush. I feel like that’s one thing they brought me here for is to get to the quarterback and I feel like I can do that at a high level.”

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