Bears Questions: Who Returns Kicks?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Deonte Thompson – Last year was the first time most Bear fans have heard of Thompson, but he’s actually been in the league since 2012. The Ravens signed Thompson as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2012 and he appeared in 13 games for Baltimore. In his two years as a Raven, he returned 22 kicks with an average of 26.8 ypr.

He spent 2014 with the Bills but was injured most of the time and eventually waived, before the Bears signed Thompson to their practice squad once Mariani began to struggle with ball security on kick-offs.

Thompson’s main weapon is speed with a 4.31 40-time at his pro day. As a receiver, he’s primarily a deep threat and caught two long passes from Cutler last year for a 40.5 yards per catch average. He has good size (6’0, 203) and elite speed, but needs to improve his route running and hands to contribute as a receiver with the Bears.

Thompson flashed some receiving talent last year, but the Bears depth chart is crowded at the position. His best shot of making the Bears roster is as their primary kick returner, but adding value as a deep threat would go a long ways towards securing his roster spot.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Omar Bolden – A former 4th round pick by the Broncos in 2012, who has been Denver’s primary kick returner for three of the last four seasons with a career average of 24.7 ypr. Bolden missed seven games due to injury last year, but did return punts for the first time and impressed with an 83-yard TD return against the Colts. 

Missing seven games ultimately cost Bolden his job as Jordan Norwood played well in his place and was re-signed by the Broncos this off-season. Bolden could compete for both the kick and punt returner jobs, add value on kick coverage units, while providing much needed depth in the Bears secondary.

Bolden wasn’t much of a factor on defense with the Broncos but did record 41 tackles during his stint in Denver. He’s a solid veteran who can contribute in multiple aspects of the game and has played most of his career under Bears HC John Fox. I don’t think Bolden will start anywhere, but will provide reliable depth at multiple positions.

Next: Undrafted Rookie Options