Bears Sign Former USFL Star, Add Depth at Linebacker: Sources

Chicago Bears

Getty DeMarquis Gates #58 of the Memphis Express.

Demarquis Gates is the latest USFL star to find an opportunity in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears bolstered their depth at linebacker, signing Gates on Friday, August 5 following a workout with the team, league sources told Heavy.

This past spring, Gates was a key cog in the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions’ championship season, producing 62 total tackles, while adding 6.5 sacks, and intercepting a pass.

Gates was one of the USFL’s most dominant defenders, and arguably the premier linebacker in the league. Gates took home Defensive Player of The Week honors twice, including from a Stallions victory over the Philadelphia Stars that saw him record a pivotal strip-sack of Case Cookus that helped seal the win for Birmingham.

Originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss back in 2018, Gates has spent time the Cleveland, Washington and Minnesota organizations, prior to landing with the Bears this summer. However, he has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Gates returning to the NFL, with the Bears, comes after he has made appearances in the USFL, CFL, XFL, and AAF, dating back to 2019. In his professional career, Gates has produced 177 total tackles, with 9.5 sacks, and a pair of interceptions.

How Gates Fits With Bears Defense

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bears are in the market for help at linebacker this summer.

Chicago kicking the tires on available linebackers likely is at least partially due to two-time All-Pro Roquan checking into training camp and immediately being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Smith is one of the Bears’ foundational building blocks on defense, and even if he is going to be back on the field in time for the regular season opener, Gates has the potential to compete on special teams and push for meaningful snaps on defense during the preseason.

The Bears finished last season ranked No. 6 in total defense, surrendering just 316.7 yards per game.

Given Gates’ dominance over the USFL, and the opportunity to see extra reps during practice as long as Smith is sidelined on the PUP list, he has a legitimate chance to compete for a roster spot.

USFL to NFL Pipeline Continues

Spring leagues have had minimal success in terms of financial stability and longevity, but the USFL has done a solid job of producing a pipeline of talent to the NFL.

Gates now becomes the 34th player to sign with an NFL team, since the league’s championship game back on July 3.

All told, there have been 23 teams that have signed at least one player from the spring league. Six teams have signed more than one player from the USFL to contracts this summer, as training camps kick into gear.

The USFL has already confirmed that there will be a second season in 2023, which will present even more chances for players to put quality film out there, in hopes of landing an NFL opportunity, as Gates has with the Bears.

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