Bears Personnel Had Eyes On Matt Barkley For Several Years

By Chris Emma–

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Four years and three teams ago, quarterback Matt Barkley was a projected first-round pick viewed as a rising star coming out of Southern California.

Barkley seemed to have a big career ahead in the NFL, but his stock fell before the 2013 draft and has seemed to been falling since, with just four games and 50 passes to his name in his professional career.

Now, Barkley is trying to rise back up with the Bears. After being released by the Arizona Cardinals last week, he quickly landed on Chicago’s practice squad.

“Fresh start,” Barkley said Monday at Halas Hall. “A new situation with a team that’s expressed that they want me. They like me.”

The Bears’ interest in Barkley’s upside began in the pre-draft process back in 2013, when current Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains met extensively with him while working for the Titans. Around the same time, Bears general manager Ryan Pace did his research while working as the Saints’ director of player personnel.

In his second year, Pace has stated his intentions to develop a quarterback on his roster, though he has yet to draft one in Chicago. Instead, Barkley replaces David Fales on the practice squad as a developmental prospect.

“We’ve liked him since he came out,” Pace said. “Dowell was a big fan of his coming out of college. So it was just, ‘Hey, we’ve got an opportunity to add a different quarterback to the practice squad, someone that we feel might still have some upside.'”

The 25-year-old Barkley has played completed 30 of his 50 passes for 300 yards across four NFL games. He left USC third on the Trojans’ completions and yards list, behind only Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

Barkley will likely find his way to the Bears’ active roster at some point during the season. For context, only Gannon Sinclair spent all of last season on the practice squad, and Fales was active for the final games of 2015 when the Ravens attempted to sign him off the Bears’ practice squad. Fales on Tuesday signed with Baltimore.

Learning from Loggains and veteran quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer can only help Barkley’s development. The Bears have an intelligent quarterbacks room, and the newcomer should fit in well.

“I’m going to soak up everything I can,” Barkley said. “I feel like in the NFL, you always got to be learning from someone.”

During this preseason, Barkley confirmed his self-belief. He led the league with 630 passing years and was 50-of-86 for four touchdowns and three interceptions.

There’s plenty to improve, but it’s something to build upon.

“I feel really comfortable with my ability to play in this league,” Barkley said.

Barkley left USC with the golden shine of a successful college career. He seemed to be an emerging star heading into the NFL before his path encountered adversity.

The Bears have hope in Barkley’s upside. Now, all he needs is to earn the chance.

“I’ve taken a slight detour,” Barkley said. “But I’m still capable of playing.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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