Meredith, 24, may not be a household name outside of Chicago, but he was by far the Bears’ most reliable receiver.
Coming off 66 catches, 888 reeving yards and 4 touchdowns last season with three different quarterbacks, Meredith was the clear front-runner to replace Alshon Jeffery -- now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles -- as the team’s de facto No. 1 wide receiver.
With Meredith out of the mix, the Bears have to reshuffle their depth chart with the regular season less than two weeks away.
1. Kevin White: White has to take over for Meredith, plain and simple. The Bears invested the seventh overall pick of the draft in White back in 2015, but up to this point, the team has almost nothing to show for it. White has played in just four regular season games because of two separate fractures in his leg, but he’s practiced virtually every day this summer. It’s now or never. At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, White is built like a Pro Bowler. Now it’s time to play like one.
2. Markus Wheaton: The former Pittsburgh Steeler is guaranteed $6 million in 2017, so he’s making the team. But Wheaton has hardly practiced because of an appendectomy and fractured left pinkie finger that required surgery. Best guess is Wheaton is ready for Week 1, but how effective can he be after missing all that time? The Bears signed Wheaton mainly because he averaged 17.0 yards per reception in 2015.
3. Kendall Wright: Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains clearly trusts Wright, who’s expected to make the 53-man roster. It’s fair to say that Wright’s had a good camp. Loggains likes to joke that there’s nothing all that special about Wright’s physical makeup, but he simply knows how to get open. The change of scenery has been good for Wright, who did catch 94 balls for 1,079 yards for Tennessee in 2013.
4. Deonte Thompson: Speaking of players having good training camps, Thompson is making it difficult for the Bears to cut him. We all know Thompson’s greatest value is on special teams, where he’s returned kickoffs in the past, but the veteran has had some memorable plays in the passing game, too. Thompson is tied with Wright for the team lead with six preseason catches, and last year he had a career-high 22 receptions for 249 yards and two touchdowns in fill-in duty.
5. Tanner Gentry: Look, Gentry catches everything in sight. I know he’s an undrafted rookie out of Wyoming -- and every year there seems to be an overhyped training camp story -- but I’ve covered every practice in 2017. Gentry made the most plays of any Bears wide receiver -- by a mile -- in Bourbonnais, and he continued to stand out when practices were moved to Halas Hall. It came as no surprise that Gentry hauled in a 45-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday, because he’s done that countless times during practice. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Gentry doesn’t look overmatched on offense. But can he play special teams? Only time will tell. The fifth or sixth receiver on the 53-man roster -- depending on how many the Bears keep -- has to play special teams.
6. Titus Davis: Davis doesn’t appear as consistent as Gentry, but he’s looked very good at times, too. Davis (6-foot-1) has four catches for 52 yards in the preseason, but probably has a much higher ceiling on special teams. I believe Davis will be on someone’s 53-man roster or practice squad this year.
7. Josh Bellamy: Bellamy is terrific on special teams -- not to mention a vocal leader -- but he’s been hurt.
8. Victor Cruz: It doesn’t look promising for Cruz, especially after he dropped another ball in Tennessee. He just hasn’t made an impact.
9. Daniel Braverman: The 2016 seventh-round pick has likely dropped too many passes in practice -- plus he muffed a kickoff return in Arizona -- to crack the 53. Maybe Chicago tries to stash him away on the practice squad, but that’s far from a foregone conclusion.
10. Alton Howard: Howard is a 5-foot-8, 185 pound undrafted rookie out of Tennessee.