The Bears haven’t found their next Devin Hester and they haven’t yet found their legitimate No. 3 receiver to replace Earl Bennett.
On Tuesday, the Bears announced the signings of Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock to one-year deals. Both players are versatile in that they can return kicks and punts as well as serve as a receiver.
Second-year man Marquess Wilson is certainly a big favorite to play a big role on offense after an off-season that has already included training with both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Florida.
The 21-year-old Washington State product reeled in only two grabs for 13 yards in 2013, but he’s bulked up from a skinny 184 to 207 lbs since then.
With Marshall and Jeffery locked in as the top two receivers, the No. 3 spot is still up for grabs for the time being. If Wilson does win that would be a scary tall trio as Marshall stands at 6-foot-4, Jeffery stands at 6-3 and Wilson is 6-4.
The additions of Edwards and Spurlock helps clear things up in terms of the kickoff and punt return aspect of things and not so much for the receiving core outside of depth.
In a corresponding move, receiver Domenix Hixon was released with an injury settlement after tearing his right ACL for the third time in his career last week.
The only other receiver who has a real chance of competing with Wilson for the No. 3 spot is seventh year pro Josh Morgan. 28-year-old Eric Weems is a lifetime special teams player, while Josh Bellamy and Terrance Tolliver are battling to even stay on the roster.
Chris Williams, who is listed at 5-8, came over from the CFL where he had a successful career as a return man. Up until now his only challenger for snaps as a punt and kick returner was Michael Ford.
But with the signings of Edwards and Spurlock that has changed and clearly general manager Phil Emery wants to add more athleticism to his receiving core and return game.
Spurlock, 31, has played for seven teams since entering the NFL in 2006 out of Mississippi. He spent 2013 with both the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
In 67 career games, the 5-10 return man has returned 81 punts for two touchdowns and 107 kickoffs for three touchdowns. He’s averaged 9.6 yards per punt return and 24.2 yards per kick return.
His best season came in 2012, when he returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns with the San Diego Chargers. He also has 46 career grabs for 494 yards and three touchdowns.
Spurlock is much more proven in the return game than Edwards, who starred at quarterback at Appalachian State before making the switch to receiver in Carolina.
Edwards, 26, a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2010 has 40 punt returns and 15 kickoff returns to his name in five seasons. After the Panthers cut him late last season, the Cleveland Browns claimed him and he returned four punts for 28 yards in two games.
These moves don’t solidify anything in terms of the receiving competition, but it adds potential to the Bears’ special teams. Spurlock has a much higher chance of making the team as a pure returner, while Edwards could make it if he pushes hard as a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver and special teams contributor.
The Bears also signed undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Al Louis-Jean, who participated in rookie minicamp last month. To make room for Louis-Jean they waived linebacker Tana Patrick.
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