Browns Poaching Promising Young Defender Off Bears’ Practice Squad: Report

Thomas Graham

Getty Thomas Graham Jr. is being poached off the Bears' practice squad.

Just one day after kicking their season off with a Week 1 win against the San Francisco 49ers, the Chicago Bears are losing one of their most promising young defenders.

The Cleveland Browns are signing cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. off Chicago’s practice squad, as first reported by Dr. Michael Tal Risher, who has trained Bears quarterback Justin Fields and other players on the team. Zac Jackson of The Athletic confirmed the news.

Graham was part of the team’s initial 53-man roster cuts, and Chicago signed him to its 16-player practice squad shortly after his release. A sixth-round pick for the Bears in 2021, Graham also spent time on the team’s practice squad last year, before getting elevated to the active roster. He played in four games, starting one, and he finished with 13 tackles and a pass defensed in 136 total snaps (112 on defense, 24 on special teams).

Graham Showed Promise, But Injury Struck at Inopportune Time

Graham initially went unclaimed after Chicago waived him, and he elected to sign back on the Bears’ PS after spending all offseason with the team playing in new head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. He was practicing with the starters earlier in the year, but was sidelined by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss all of training camp.

“I was running with the 1s all OTAs, being the 1 nickel,” Graham said on September 1, via NBC Sports. “They gave me a shot after a hard last year.”

The hamstring injury came at the worst time for the young corner, who also told NBC Sports he planned on being elevated to Chicago’s active roster sooner rather than later.

“This isn’t a long term thing in my head, it’s a short term thing,” Graham said. “Just get fully healthy and then let them see what they’ve already seen before.”

As it happens, the Browns were also taking note of Graham’s potential. Players on the practice squads of NFL teams are free agents, so it’s up to them where they ultimately play, but once a team poaches a player off another squad’s PS, he’s signed to the active roster, so Graham may get some opportunities with Cleveland’s starting CB Greedy Williams out for the season.

Bears Make 4 More Roster Moves

The Bears also made four roster moves according to the September 12 waiver wire. Chicago signed veteran defensive tackle Mike Pennel to its 53-man roster, also releasing offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons from the practice squad.

In corresponding moves, the Bears also signed defensive end Andre Anthony and offensive lineman Michael Niese to their practice squad.

Anthony was a 2022 seventh-round draft pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was released as part of the team’s final roster cuts. In 36 pass rush snaps this preseason, the 6-foot-4, 251-pound Anthony finished with four pressures, a QB hit, a hurry and 2.0 sacks, per Pro Football Focus.

Niese was signed by the Denver Broncos after going undrafted in 2022. In 52 snaps played at right guard over the preseason, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound O-Lineman surrendered just three pressures (no sacks or hurries), earning a solid 79.1 overall grade from PFF. A former Temple product, Niese is athletic-yet-raw, and the Bears will likely be looking to develop him as the year progresses, as his skill set is exactly what new GM Ryan Poles has been coveting since his arrival.

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