Bears Bring in Close Friend of Caleb Williams After Roster Tryout

Caleb Williams Friend John Jackson III Chicago Bears News Bears Roster Moves

Getty Bears rookie quarterback Caleb Williams now has one of his friends on the roster.

John Jackson III, one of Caleb Williams’ close friends, is officially signing an undrafted rookie contract with the Chicago Bears after a successful roster tryout during the team’s two-day minicamp last weekend.

According to the team’s official transaction wire for May 13, the Bears signed six players — including Jackson — to their 90-man offseason roster after inviting more than two dozen rookies and veterans to try out for the team during their minicamp.

Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound wide receiver, played with Williams at USC in 2022, but he did not have much of a role behind Jordan Addison, Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice and Mario Williams and caught just one pass for three yards. He had a more productive season after he transferred to Nevada in 2023, recording a team-high 35 receptions.

Clearly, Williams appreciated the Bears’ willingness to host his friend for a tryout. He also said he worked with Jackson ahead of time to dig into the Bears’ playbook, hoping they could show off their connection and give him his best chance of making the team.

“It’s awesome,” Williams said of Jackson’s tryout on May 10. “I’m excited for him and this opportunity. We’ve been working hard, trying to dig into the playbook and things like that because he’s in a situation where he’s coming in here trying out. Just getting in here working hard, getting after it, trying to give himself and myself the best advantage. And having a connection like that always helps.”

Bears Add Rookie DT With Local Ties to Roster

Jackson’s connection to Williams makes him one of the Bears’ more intriguing post-minicamp signings, but he is not the only rookie they signed to their 90-man roster. The Bears also brought in cornerback Leon Jones (Arkansas State), defensive tackle Dashaun Mallory (Arizona State) and linebacker Paul Moala (Notre Dame).

Mallory catches the eye, mostly because the Bears’ defensive line remains a need. He notched 48 tackles, two sacks and 10 tackles for loss over 12 games for the Sun Devils and has the versatility to play both inside and outside. He also grew up about 30 miles outside of Chicago in Bolingbrook, Illinois, giving him a local connection.

The Bears also signed two veteran pass-catchers: wide receiver Freddie Swain and tight end Tommy Sweeney. Swain has 42 receptions, 576 yards and six touchdowns in 37 career games, played primarily with the Seattle Seahawks. He adds another experienced veteran to the room to compete for depth spots in the receiving rotation.

Meanwhile, Sweeney is attempting an NFL comeback after spending the 2023 season on the reserve/non-football injury list with the New York Giants. According to the team’s website entry about him, Sweeney collapsed during the Giants’ 2023 training camp due to “a medical event” and spent most of the year on the NFI list until the team released him on November 28. He has 18 career catches for 165 yards and a touchdown.

Will Bears Target More Caleb Williams Connections?

The Bears are not going to add players purely on the basis that they have a connection to their new franchise quarterback. That said, the Bears could reasonably look to target a few more of Williams’ former USC teammates, depending on how training camp goes.

Williams’ two favorite passing targets for the Trojans in 2023 — Washington and Rice — are currently signed with NFL teams, hoping to earn roster spots with their respective teams later this summer. As seventh-round picks and third-string options, though, it is possible one or both of them could miss the cut and become available in late August.

By then, the Bears should have a clearer idea of how strong their receiving depth is behind DJ Moore, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze. If they want more help, either Rice or Washington could come into play — even if only as practice-squad additions.

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