Bears Bring Back Former Division III DB Who Hasn’t Played Since 2019

Chicago Bears cornerback Michael Joseph

Getty Bears CB Michael Joseph

The Chicago Bears announced Friday that they are bringing cornerback Michael Joseph back on a one-year deal. Joseph didn’t play at all in 2020, as he was hampered by a knee injury that landed him on the injured reserve list, which was followed by a stint on the COVID-19/reserve list.

The defensive back, who is originally from Oswego, a suburb of Chicago, made the Bears’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Dubuque in 2018. He spent the entire season on the practice squad that year, and again the following season, until he was moved up to the active roster late in 2019. He never saw the field, though, and has yet to play in an NFL game.

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What Does Bears’ Depth at CB Look Like?

With All-Pro corner Kyle Fuller getting released due to salary cap constraints, the Bears signed former Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions veteran Desmond Trufant to fill his role on the right side. Second-year starter Jaylon Johnson will get the nod on the left after a promising rookie campaign last year. Behind them both, it gets a little hairy.

Behind Johnson, there’s former Pittsburgh Steelers first-rounder Artie Burns, who signed his second straight one-year deal with Chicago last month. Burns tore his ACL before the season began in 2020, forcing him to miss the entire year. Chicago is giving him another go at it in 2021, and he’s currently listed ahead of former Georgia Southern fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor and ex-CFL standout Tre Robertson on the depth chart.

Behind Trufant are Duke Shelley, the team’s 2019 sixth-round pick out of Kansas State, former Lions’ second-round selection Teez Tabor and journeyman vet Xavier Crawford.

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Will Joseph Finally Make Active Roster in 2021?

At six-foot-one, 180-pounds, Joseph has size, and he has shown flashes both in college and in the preseason with the Bears. He had 10 tackles in each of the 2018 and 2019 preseasons, and his making the active roster late in the 2019 season could bode well for his future with the team. It could also mean nothing.

His college numbers were also impressive, particularly during his senior year, when he totaled eight interceptions and 16 passes defensed in 10 games. In his three years as a starter at Dubuque, he started 31 games, netting 166 total tackles, 15 interceptions and 35 passes defensed. Sure, it was against Division III opponents, but he stood out enough to be the only Division III player invited to the NFL Scouting Combine after he graduated in 2018.

Joseph also ran a 4.52 second 40-yard dash during his Pro Day appearance that year, so he has solid speed for that size. It will be interesting to see what happens with him, particularly coming off a season in which he didn’t play at all.

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