Sources: Bears sign former USFL star, adding linebacker depth

Chicago Bears


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DeMarquis Gates #58 of the Memphis Express grabs Marshaun Coprich #24 of the Birmingham Iron during the first quarter of their Alliance of American Football game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on March 24, 2019 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/AAF/Getty Images)

Demarquis Gates is the latest USFL star to find an opportunity in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears bolstered their depth at linebacker, signing Gates on Friday, August 5 following a workout with the team, league sources told Heavy.

This past spring, Gates was a key cog in the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions’ championship season, producing 62 total tackles, while adding 6.5 sacks, and intercepting a pass.

Gates was one of the USFL’s most dominant defenders, and arguably the premier linebacker in the league. Gates took home Defensive Player of The Week honors twice, including from a Stallions victory over the Philadelphia Stars that saw him record a pivotal strip-sack of Case Cookus that helped seal the win for Birmingham.

Originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss back in 2018, Gates has spent time in the Cleveland Browns, Washington, and Minnesota Vikings organizations, prior to landing with the Bears this summer. However, he has yet to appear in an NFL game.

Gates returning to the NFL, with the Bears, comes after he has made appearances in the USFL, CFL, XFL, and AAF, dating back to 2019. In his professional career, Gates has produced 177 total tackles, with 9.5 sacks, and a pair of interceptions.

How Demarquis Gates fits with Chicago Bears

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Bears are in the market for help at linebacker this summer.

Chicago kicking the tires on available linebackers likely is at least partially due to two-time All-Pro Roquan checking into training camp and immediately being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Smith is one of the Bears’ foundational building blocks on defense, and even if he is going to be back on the field in time for the regular season opener, Gates has the potential to compete on special teams and push for meaningful snaps on defense during the preseason.

The Bears finished last season ranked No. 6 in total defense, surrendering just 316.7 yards per game.

Given Gates’ dominance over the USFL, and the opportunity to see extra reps during practice as long as Smith is sidelined on the PUP list, he has a legitimate chance to compete for a roster spot.

USFL to NFL pipeline continues

Spring leagues have had minimal success in terms of financial stability and longevity, but the USFL has done a