Cunningham agrees to deal with the Bears and Sanchez will meet Thursday

Cunningham agrees to deal with the Bears and Sanchez will meet Thursday
Left: Benny Cunningham, Right: Mark Sanchez. The Bears signed Cunningham on Tuesday and will visit with veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez on Thursday.

The Bears came to terms with a kick returner on Tuesday and will plan a visit with a veteran quarterback on Thursday.

Running back/kick returner Benny Cunningham signed with the Bears, the team announced. Also, quarterback Mark Sanchez will be at Halas Hall to talk about possibly coming on as the third quarterback on the roster, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

In 57 career games, the 5’10”, 217-pound Middle Tennessee State alum has 171 rushes for 748 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 93 receptions for 752 yards and one touchdown in four seasons with the Rams.

Cunningham’s abilities stretch to kickoffs where he took back 95 for 2,575 yards with an average of 27.1 per return. He recorded a career-high return in 2015 of 102 yards. Cunningham should also get a chance to compete as a complimentary pass catching back.

The 26-year-old had 22 kickoff returns for 599 yards a season ago with a long of 61 yards. His 27.2 yards per kick return ranked third to only Coradarrelle Patterson and Alex Erickson in 2016.

Cunningham joins Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Bralon Addison, David Cobb as the sixth running back on the roster. He’s the 10th free agent to sign with the Bears and the 21st player to the team has brought onto the roster this off-season.

In other news, the Bears will be kicking the tires with a veteran quarterback. Sanchez, the 2009 No. 5 overall pick out of USC will be in town on Thursday.

Sanchez, a 6’2″, 225-pounder has thrown for 15,219 yards, 86 touchdowns, 74 interceptions and a 56.7 completion percentage in eight seasons in the NFL (New York Jets, 2009-13), (Philadelphia, 2014-15) and Dallas (2016).

He has made 75 regular season starts in 77 games with 62 coming in New York. He posted a 4-2 postseason record with the Jets from 2009-10 with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Sanchez has played in just 15 games with 10 starts the past three seasons, throwing 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Perhaps best known for one of the worst plays in NFL history came on Thanksgiving Day 2012, the “butt fumble.” Sanchez coughed off a fumble after he collided with his guard Brandon Moore’s butt, hence the title in the blowout loss to New England (video here).

It makes sense for the Bears to take a look at Sanchez. As much hate and dislike there is for him from his former employer’s fans, he wouldn’t be a bad veteran option to have compete in training camp.

For now, it’s Mike Glennon’s offense, but behind him is only journeyman Connor Shaw. Sanchez signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Dallas last off-season and was mostly inactive. He should come at a cheaper rate if added right now.

The quarterback market is thin and at this point the Bears just want guys to come in and compete on one-year deals. Look at their most recent signings for examples of that. If signed, Sanchez would be a fallback option if the Bears don’t find the prospect they want in the draft next month.

Off-season workout dates announced 

The Bears announced on Tuesday that they’ll begin their offseason program on April 18 and hold their rookie minicamp May 12-14, two weeks following the end of the NFL Draft.

After that, the team will have 10 OTA practices, with three open to the media (May 23, May 30 and June 6). The full team minicamp will run from June 13-15 at Halas Hall.

In case you missed it

STORY: The Bears re-sign two veterans on Monday

STORY: 2017 NFL Mock Draft (Chicago Bears Edition 1.0)

STORY: The Bears bring in a pure nose tackle in John Jenkins

STORY: Two quarterback prospects that could be solid options for the Bears’ future

STORY: Breaking down each Bears signing with one sentence apiece

STORY: Marcus Cooper’s signing represents hope for the Bears’ secondary

STORY: The Bears introduce a quartet of players on Friday afternoon

STORY: What Prince Amukamara’s signing means to the Bears’ defense?

STORY: Markus Wheaton adds speed to thin Bears’ wideout room

STORY: Alshon Jeffery leaves for Philly

STORY: Jay Cutler’s tenure in Chicago ends

Thoughts on the Bears’ moves? Comment below.

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