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Better Chance To Make Bears Roster: Tajae Sharpe or Dante Pettis?

  • Justin Melo
  • May 12, 2022
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Much has been made about the way Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles has approached his first offseason in charge. The Bears were expected to spend the summer surrounding sophomore franchise quarterback Justin Fields with more weapons, particularly after the team allowed Allen Robinson to walk in free agency. The Bears entered the 2022 NFL Draft without a first-round selection as a result of last year’s trade-up to secure Fields. While the Bears were largely expected to draft a receiver with one of their two second-round selections, Poles decided to double down on the secondary instead, drafting Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.

The Bears ended up drafting just one receiver period (Tennessee’s Velus Jones Jr. in the third round) despite making a league-leading 11 selections. Instead of drafting or signing a high-profile receiver, Poles has preferred to make low-cost additions. It’s a risky gamble as Fields prepares to enter an ever-important second season. 

The Bears have signed four receivers this offseason and none of them will earn more than $4 million (Byron Pringle) in 2022. Poles rounded out that list by signing Dante Pettis and Tajae Sharpe on Wednesday afternoon. Pettis and Sharpe join the back-end of a receiver room that includes Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome, and Isaiah Coulter, to name a few—not exactly a murderer’s row of pass-catchers. Both Pettis and Sharpe should possess excellent chances to make Chicago’s final roster as a result, but we lean towards Sharpe having the slightly better chance to quickly endear himself to Chicago’s coaching staff.

A fifth-round selection of the Tennessee Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, Sharpe entered the NFL after rewriting UMass’ record books as a senior by recording an astounding 111 receptions for 1,319 yards. Sharpe’s production earned him a chance at the next level despite his lack of high-level athletic ability. Sharpe was surprisingly named a starter as a rookie and totaled an impressive 41 receptions for 522 yards on a Titans team that improved their win total by six. 

Sharpe remained a role player throughout the course of his four-year rookie contract in Tennessee and reunited with former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as a member of the Falcons in 2021. Sharpe appeared in 15 games for the Falcons last season. He caught 25 balls for 290 yards. Sharpe has routinely been praised for his route running ability and attention to detail. Although his lack of desired athletic ability sometimes makes it difficult for him to separate from press-man coverage, Sharpe is nuanced and efficient, and could provide Fields with the consistent reliability he desperately requires.

Pettis entered the league with a ton of upside as a second-round selection (No. 44 overall) of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2018 NFL Draft. Pettis quickly acclimated to the NFL by recording an impressive 27 receptions for 467 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a rookie in just 12 regular-season appearances. It’s unfortunately been all downhill for Pettis since then. 

The former Washington standout eventually landed in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse and his playing time dwindled considerably in 2019 and 2020 before being released midway through the 2020 campaign. Pettis has since taken ownership for the deteriorating relationship in San Francisco. Pettis latched onto a reserve role with the New York Giants and accounted for 87 receiving yards on just 10 receptions in 2021 before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in November.

Pettis is undeniably the more naturally talented receiver when compared with Sharpe, but a lack of consistency and injury issues has plagued his professional career, preventing him from finding the consistency and sense of urgency Sharpe has often displayed. Both receivers have landed in excellent situations from a personal standpoint and should receive fair shouts to claim a final roster spot with the Bears. Witnessing Pettis finally bring it all together would be a welcomed storyline to follow along with, but history indicates Sharpe is the receiver more likely to take advantage of this opportunity.