Another day and another former Bronco is reuniting with head coach John Fox in Chicago. On Thursday, the Bears reached an agreement with defensive back/kick returner Omar Bolden on a one-year worth the veteran minimum ($760,000), per Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
Renck first reported the interest between Bolden and the Bears on March 18. The four-year pro appeared in 56 games with Denver from 2012-2015, starting one game at safety in 2013. A 2012 fourth-round pick out of Arizona State, Bolden has carved out a nice role as a return specialist and core special teamer.
The 27-year-old averaged 24.7 yards per kickoff on 44 career returns with a long of 77 in 2013. Last season, he returned five punts for 123 yards (24.6 average), taking one back against Indianapolis, 83 yards for a touchdown.
The 5'10", 195-pounder adds depth to a thin secondary and is a familiar face for special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers. I expect Bolden to pencil in as the starting punt returner while mixing in with Deonte Thompson on kick returner duties.
Don't be shocked to see Bolden earn snaps on defense. He started his career out at cornerback as a rookie, the same position he excelled at in college before switching to safety in 2013.
Fox loves developing players and clearly this kid is a player he likes considering the Bears visited with him Thursday and signed him on the spot. He could get a chance at his listed position of safety or even at slot corner with his impressive speed. Bolden has seen 356 defensive snaps and 1,008 snaps on special teams in his career. Last year, he saw 48 defensive snaps.
Bolden has 51 career tackles and one pass breakup. His 27 special teams tackles ranked second over the last four years for Denver. Unfortunately, a torn right PCL ended Bolden's postseason run in the AFC Divisional Round. He has missed eight career games, including seven a season ago with hamstring and foot injuries. He sat out one game in 2014 with a concussion.
In four years at Arizona State (41 games), Bolden totaled 138 career tackles (112 solo), seven interceptions & 21 pass breakups at cornerback. Durability issues plagued him at times in college as he tore his left ACL in spring practices forcing him to miss his entire senior season. He made it through only four games as a sophomore (2009) after spraining his left MCL.
Clearly, the Broncos liked his upside taking a chance on him in the fourth round despite his knee injury in his final collegiate season and the fact that he didn't run at the NFL Combine. However, the emergence of wideout Jordan Norwood who had a Super Bowl record 61-yard punt return in the win over Carolina made Bolden replaceable.
Linebacker Danny Trevathan, guard/center Manny Ramirez (signed Wednesday) and long snapper Aaron Brewer are three other former Broncos the Bears have signed this off-season. Wide receiver Eddie Royal, center Will Montgomery, cornerback Tracy Porter and defensive lineman Mitch Unrein were signed last off-season giving the Bears seven former players Fox coached in Denver on the roster. Montgomery is still a free agent and likely not to return to Chicago.
In total, the Bears have reached agreements with 20 total players this off-season including eight new faces. Bolden is the latest of a slew of additions who bolster the third phase and that bodes well for this team moving forward.
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