The Chicago Bears have added a veteran wide receiver the day after announcing they traded Anthony Miller. Per NFL insider Ian Rapoport , the Bears have signed former Atlanta Falcons wideout Justin Hardy.
A former fourth-round pick out of East Carolina, Hardy spent his first five seasons with the Falcons. He played in 73 games in that span, starting six, catching 95 passes for 946 yards (that’s 10.0 yards per reception) and 9 touchdowns. The Falcons let him test free agency last year, and he wound up not playing at all during the 2020 season.
Hardy also has experience returning both punts and kickoffs, and with Cordarrelle Patterson now in Atlanta and Tarik Cohen unlikely to have a huge role on special teams this year, that could help him when it comes time for roster cuts — although with the likes of Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Dazz Newsome, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Javon Wims and Riley Ridley, making the roster won’t be easy. The 29-year-old Hardy has 20 career punt returns for 147 yards (7.4 yards per return) and 5 total kick returns for 59 yards (11.8 yards per return).
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Bears Had Talks About Trading Miller ‘Throughout the Summer’
The Bears sent Miller and a seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for a fifth-rounder, announcing the move on July 26. They signed Hardy the following day. Speaking to the media on the first day of training camp July 27, prior to the news about Hardy broke, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was asked his thoughts about trading Miller, a wideout he moved up in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft to select.
“I’ve done a lot of trades with (Houston GM) Nick Caserio over the years,” Pace said. “That communication kinda went on throughout the summer, and for us, it just became a situation where, hey, both parties can benefit. Once I realized we could get a fifth-round pick out of this — we’ve had a lot of success in that area of the draft. … I think, also, we feel good about the receiver room that we have, that we’ve built. There’s a lot of competition there. It all kind of connected together where the timing was right, and we wish him nothing but the best, and we’re moving forward.”
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It Could Come Down to Hardy, Wims & Ridley
With Chicago’s wide receiver’s room more than a tad crowded at the moment, Robinson and Mooney are the clear No. 1 and 2, but after that, it’s far more hard to predict. Byrd and Goodwin seem like locks to make the roster, as does Newsome, who the team selected in the sixth round this year. Thus, it will likely come down to Hardy, Wims and Ridley.
“The competition that we brought in at the wide receiver position is really good,” head coach Matt Nagy said on the first day of training camp. “You think of a guy like Marquise Goodwin, who we brought in, and Damiere Byrd, obviously having Ridley and Wims still here and A-Rob and Mooney and there’s a lot of depth. You’ve got other guys that I didn’t mention that are on our roster that are gonna completely compete and go out there. What we’ve gotta do is let them do their thing and see where they’re at. I think one of the things is we’re gonna feel a little bit of a difference there at that position, that group, and it starts with those guys.”
Add Hardy to that list.