Last offseason, the Chicago Bears opted to dip into the cornerback market in free agency, signing former first-round pick Artie Burns to a one-year deal only to see Burns tear his ACL during training camp, leading to a missed 2020 season.Â Once viewed as a promising part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ future, Burns experienced ups and downs throughout 2018 and 2019 in Pittsburgh. The Steelers would eventually decline the fifth-year option on Burns, making him an unrestricted free agent. The hope was that a change of scenery in Chicago could help the 26 year old revitalize his career.
Back with the Bears in 2021, Burns is still on the roster but the emergence of young players like Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor have Burns on the outside looking in terms of making the final roster in 2021.
Let’s breakdown why Burns should and shouldn’t be on the roster in 2021 as we continue our roster bubble series here on Fireside Bears.
The case for keeping Burns
In the NFL, comeback and revival stories are always fun to watch and follow. Much of the same applies with Burns, who’ll need to use training camp as a way of proving that he belongs on the Bears roster. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai could also value Burns nose for the football and his ability to be solid when it comes to man coverage.
Listed at 6-foot-0 and 197 pounds, Burns’ length will also be an asset when shutting down bigger wide receivers. While he may not be a household name, Burns will be in competition with veterans like Desmond Trufant for the CB2 job, something that will be a key positional battle to monitor throughout training camp.
With 32 starts in 58 career games, Burns is the second most experienced NFL starter in Chicago’s CB room, behind Trufant. This amount of experience makes him another valuable asset as a sounding board for younger players in the room such as Johnson, Vildor, Duke Shelley, and Thomas Graham Jr., all players the Bears have drafted since 2019.
The case for cutting Burns
The biggest question with Burns is whether or not he’s fully healthy coming into 2021. Is he fully recovered from the ACL tear that cost him and will he be able to perform like the player who had 13 PBU’s and three interceptions as a rookie or will he look more like the player that started just one game in 2019, his final season in Pittsburgh.
Burns will also need to prove that he’s able to compete and outperform younger defensive backs on the Bears roster if he’s going to have a case for making the roster. If Burns is unable to outperform younger defensive backs, he’ll be amongst the first veterans sent packing when Chicago trims the roster down in late-August to prepare for the regular season.
There are multiple arguments for and against Burns but keeping him around would mean that Chicago has a veteran presence in a relatively young CB room, however, if the sixth-year veteran shows that he’s taken a step back, Burns won’t be on the opening day roster in 2021.