Quartet of former Cal stars ink undrafted free agent deals in NFL

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For just the second time since the early 1980s, the Cal football program fell short of having a player selected in the annual NFL draft.

But just hours after missing the cut, four former Bears are headed to the league by way of the undrafted free agent market.

Starting running back Patrick Laird, a former walk-on who led the blue and gold in rush yards during each of the past two seasons, announced via Twitter that he is signing with the Miami Dolphins. Laird joins a dynamic backfield featuring Kenyan Drake and former Arizona State star Kalen Ballage in South Beach.

Inside linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, whose 273 collegiate tackles rank him eighth in program history, reportedly reached a deal with the Carolina Panthers, coached by former Cal star Ron Rivera.

Left tackle Patrick Mekari is also headed to the East Coast, where he’ll seek to earn reps protecting 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and current Baltimore Raven Lamar Jackson.

Tight end Ian Bunting, who transferred to Cal from Michigan for his final year of eligibility, is heading back to his home state of Illinois. Bunting is signing with the Chicago Bears, who recently lost Zach Miller to retirement.

Other notable former Cal stars on the undrafted free agent market include outside linebacker Alex Funches and wide receiver Vic Wharton III.

Last season, receiver Jordan Veasy, running back Vic Enwere and linebacker Raymond Davison III netted undrafted free agent contracts shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 NFL draft. Linebacker Devante Downs and defensive end James Looney heard their names called in the seventh and final rounds and were taken by the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, respectively.

The Bears have yet to yield a first-round pick ever since Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff was selected No. 1 overall in 2016. Cal’s 2019 draft class is expected to include several defensive names, including linebacker Evan Weaver and members of the secondary, accentuated by cornerback Camryn Bynum and strong safety Jaylinn Hawkins.

Josh Yuen covers football. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joshcal2020.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jared Goff was selected No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. In fact, he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.