Bears Sign Ex-Raiders Veteran WR, Putting Velus Jones on Bubble

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Getty The Bears are signing former Raiders wide receiver DeAndre Carter.

The Chicago Bears are adding another veteran wide receiver and return specialist to their offseason roster ahead of next month’s NFL training camp.

According to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz, the Bears are signing former Las Vegas Raiders veteran DeAndre Carter to their 90-man roster. The team has not officially announced Carter’s signing, but a corresponding roster move would not be necessary to add him.

Carter played a minimal role on offense for the Raiders in 2023, but he served as their primary return specialist on both punts and kickoffs during the season. He averaged 9.7 yards on 24 punt returns and 23.8 yards on 11 kickoff returns, making him a potential asset for the Bears as they adjust to the NFL’s new kickoff rules for the 2024 season.

Carter, 31, has also caught 108 passes for 1,259 yards and six touchdowns over his first six seasons in the league. He had his best season as a pass-catcher with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2022, catching 46 passes for 538 yards for three scores, and could push the less experienced receivers on the Bears’ roster for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Once Carter’s signing becomes official, Chicago will have reached its 90-man limit for its offseason roster. If the Bears want to sign anyone else between now and July 26’s first training camp practice, they must also make a corresponding cut to make room.

DeAndre Carter Had Previous Stint With 2020 Bears

Carter might be a new addition for the 2024 Bears, but he has spent time in Chicago before. He played four games for the Bears under Matt Nagy’s coaching regime in 2020 but saw no action on offense, instead returning just four punts for 30 combined yards.

As forgettable as Carter’s first stint might have been, though, the Bears likely recognize he has the potential to be an asset for them on special teams. The six-year veteran has more punt return yardage (1,294) and kick return yardage (2,646) than receiving yards (1,259) in his 94 career games. He has also returned more than 100 punts and kickoffs, giving him a degree of experience that separates him from the rest of Chicago’s pack.

Carter’s return prowess could come in handy in light of the NFL’s changes to the kickoff format. On kickoffs now, only the kicker and the receiving team’s two designated return specialists can move before either a player touches the ball or the ball hits the ground between the 20-yard line and the goal line. The hope is the league will see more kickoff returns in the 2024 season after seeing a record-low return rate in 2023.

If the Bears feel Carter’s speed and experience can give them an edge in a now more emphasized part of the game, he could have staying power with the team in camp.

Could DeAndre Carter Boot Velus Jones From Roster?

Realistically, Carter could carve a path for himself to the 53-man roster. He has more pass-catching experience than any of the Bears’ other wide receivers aside from DJ Moore and Keenan Allen and could make a compelling case to be either the fifth or sixth receiver in the rotation if Chicago feels good about his return capabilities.

To secure his spot, though, Carter might need to outperform Velus Jones Jr. in camp.

Jones — a 2022 third-round pick — has been underwhelming as an offensive playmaker but generally strong as a kickoff returner. On 38 career kick returns, he has averaged 27.4 yards and should also benefit from the NFL rule changes to the kickoff format. Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower certainly expects him to.

“With the speed and the power that he has and he’s coming full speed ahead at you, it’s like a damn freight train running at you,” Hightower said of Jones on May 11. “And he’s going to get the opportunity to touch the ball three or four more times a game, and we all know he is a very dynamic player with the ball in his hand.”

Carter could also threaten Dante Pettis’ roster security in 2024. Pettis spent the 2022 season with the Bears and served as their primary punt returner, but he missed all of 2023 with an injury he suffered in training camp. While it says something about how the Bears view him that the team re-signed him for 2024, Carter’s ability to return both punts and kickoffs could push Pettis to the roster bubble instead of Jones.

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