Walker, 28, signed a two-year contract worth $4.15 million in March with over $2 million in guarantees. After three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Walker was brought in to compete for the backup quarterback job behind Justin Fields.
The Bears will now hand that role to undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent or veteran Nathan Peterman. Bagent, who signed with Chicago after playing for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s squad at the Senior Bowl, has been the team’s strongest backup QB throughout training camp.
Walker struggled to grab hold of the No. 2 job throughout the preseason and did not get into Chicago’s third exhibition game — a 24-21 loss to Buffalo on Saturday — until the fourth quarter. He finished 6-of-11 for 71 yards, including a touchdown pass to fullback Robert Burns.
Bagent was the second quarterback to enter the Bears’ preseason finale, replacing Fields in the second quarter. The former product of Division II Shepherd University followed up on his 17 play, 92-yard touchdown drive against Indianapolis by going 4-of-10 for 18 yards and a rushing touchdown. He also threw an interception one play after a wide-open pass in the end zone was dropped.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said the plan going into the Bills game was for Bagent to be the first QB off the bench.
“I thought in terms of just overall, I don’t know about the [No. 2 quarterback] battle, but I know he put his best foot forward,” Eberflus said. “He operated the offense, was in and out of the huddle. A lot of times when you’re working with different pieces and parts, sometimes you’re getting up there to the line, and it’s seven seconds, and he was very mindful of the clock to get the snaps off. Typically, with inexperience, you have a couple of those delays. He didn’t have those, but overall, great operation. I thought he was accurate. The decision-making was good. So overall good.”
Bagent holds the NCAA all-time record for passing touchdowns with 159. During his senior season, the 23-year-old quarterback led Division II in completions (400) and was second in passing yards (4,580), completion percentage (69.9%) and passing TDs (41).
“I feel as if I’ve proved that I belong and that I belong in the league,” Bagent said Saturday, “but I think more than anything just all the hope and motivation I’m providing for my siblings and the people back home is really what I kind of sit back and think about when I think about just the whole camp and preseason and how just everything is falling into place.”
Following the Bills game, Walker acknowledged his preseason struggles and that the backup quarterback competition had evolved into battle for which he was no longer the presumptive favorite.
“I ain’t a fool,” he said. “I can read the room. I know what it is. It’s a business, and if you ain’t performing, you ain’t going to be able to play. So, for me it’s just go out there, perform at a high level or you don’t play. That’s what it is.”
The Bears also waived offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, a 2021 first-round draft pick by the Las Vegas Raiders, on Sunday. Chicago claimed Leatherwood off waivers last year, and he had settled in at left guard with the second-team offensive line during training camp.
Chicago will still owe him $4.59 million in guarantees remaining on his contract.
The Bears opted to slide Cody Whitehair over to left guard instead of moving Leatherwood in with the starters with Teven Jenkins sidelined by a leg injury. Jenkins is expected to miss several weeks, according to a source, and is classified as “week-to-week” by the Bears.
Rookie offensive tackle Gabe Houy, who sustained a leg injury against Buffalo, was waived with an injury designation.