The Chicago Bears just announced the team has agreed to terms with KR/WR Eric Weems (5-9, 195) on a three-year contract.
The 2010 Pro Bowl special teame, has 41 career special teams tackles, 815 punt return yards and a touchdown on 77 punt returns (10.6 ypr) and 2,896 kickoff return yards and a touchdown on 113 returns (25.6 ypr) in 55 games (six starts) as a member of the Falcons.
His 3,711 total kick return yards are seventh in the NFL over the last five seasons. He ranks 10th in the NFL in punt return average and 11th in kickoff return average during that time.
Signing with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman University in 2007, Weems has added 24 receptions for 205 yards (8.5 ypr) and two touchdowns during his NFL career with Atlanta. Weems also recorded an NFL Playoff record 102-yard kickoff return touchdown in Atlanta’s 2011 Divisional Round playoff game against Green Bay.
KR Eric Weems
Dave Martin/US Presswire
Along with Blake Costanzo yesterday, this is the second signing in less than 12 hours the Bears have made to strengthen its special teams unit. All offseason, the talk has been about Chicago’s needs on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Yet the whole time, it appears Bears brass were just as concerned about the third phase of the game.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked first overall in special teams play last year. Coordinator Dave Toub’s unit annually ranks at or near the top of the league.
Chicago puts more emphasis on special teams than arguably any other club in the NFL, so it’s no surprise they decided to add some pieces. The swiftness of these moves shows the priority the team places on this aspect of the game.
Weems is a dynamic player who is experienced returning both kickoffs and punts. The Bears could have plans to use Devin Hester more on offense. If so, Weems allows them to reduce Hester’s reps on special teams without compromising the unit.
This move could also mean the organization is concerned about the health of Johnny Knox, who is still recovering after suffering a brutal spine injury late last season. Knox was second on the team last year behind Hester in kick return yardage (397).
Signing Weems is also one more sign that the team plans to move on from Corey Graham, Chicago’s leading special teams tackler last year – for which he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Graham wants more reps at cornerback, but the Bears re-signed Tim Jennings yesterday, so that’s not likely to happen.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.