Jimmy Clausen has a short window to prove himself. But, at least for now, he has an opportunity.
The Bears added the 26-year-old quarterback to their backup competition Thursday, signing Clausen to a one-year deal and waiving linebacker Lawrence Wilson to clear roster space.
Just like that, the organization that has put its faith and future in the hands of Jay Cutler created new quarterback conversation with a crammed and uncertain depth chart below Cutler.
So what now?
Clausen told the Tribune on Thursday he’s planning a weekend cram session with the playbook, understanding he must gain an understanding of coach Marc Trestman’s offensive concepts and priorities quickly. Beyond that, the former Notre Dame standout will have seven on-field opportunities to prove he’s worthy of an invite to training camp.
Four practices come next week during the team’s final organized team activities and then there’s the Bears’ minicamp June 17-19.
“I am blessed to have an opportunity to come here and work with a great coaching staff and help the team at any level I can,” Clausen said.
Clausen is now one of five quarterbacks on the roster, mixing in with Jordan Palmer, David Fales and Jerrod Johnson in the quest to provide backup options behind Cutler.
Palmer opened the Bears’ OTAs last week as the No. 2 quarterback with Fales, a sixth-round draft pick, eyed as a development project.
Clausen’s workout for the Bears came Thursday at Halas Hall. According to a source with knowledge of that session, Clausen’s performance was sharp and he appeared to have added mass to his frame since his last game action during exhibitions in 2013.
In the weeks ahead, he will have to show an increased mastery of his reads, proper footwork and an ability to handle Trestman’s up-tempo practices.
Before the 2010 draft, Clausen spent time working with Trestman in preparation for the NFL scouting combine and his pro day. So the two have at least minor familiarity.
Clausen made all 13 of his regular season appearances as a rookie after the Panthers drafted him in the second round in 2010. But in his 10 starts, he had a 1-9 record, completed only 53.4 percent of his passes, averaged 145.2 passing yards and threw seven interceptions against three touchdown passes. The Panthers drafted quarterback Cam Newton first overall in 2011.
The Bears beat him 23-6 in Charlotte, N.C., in Week 5 of 2010. But the contest was criticized widely as a comical dud between Clausen and emergency Bears starter Todd Collins.
Clausen was 9-for-22 for 61 yards, was sacked five times and threw an interception.
Last September, Clausen had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, an injury he suffered in his final exhibition appearance. That effectively ended a disappointing four-year stretch for the Panthers.
Thursday’s signing should not be framed yet as anything more than an opportunity for Trestman and general manager Phil Emery to spend the rest of this month evaluating another quarterback.
The Bears eventually will look to cast at least one member of the current quarterback quintet aside before training camp. But as Emery continues to promote competition across the roster, Clausen’s arrival aids that push.
And as thin as his NFL regular-season experience may be, it’s more extensive than the resumes of the Bears’ other three reserve quarterbacks.
“I’ll have a long weekend studying,” Clausen said. “This is a great opportunity. … I haven’t been here for the whole offseason so I am trying to get in (the offense) as fast as I can.”
Tribune reporter Brad Biggs contributed.
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