As the draft draws closer more noise is being made by fans and draftniks that the Bears will and/or need to draft a safety. I too have been on that bandwagon after the deplorable season the safeties suffered through and put us through as well. The question now is when do they draft one? Should it be sooner or later? Before those questions can be answered we need to step back an look at what Safety situation looks like now.
There was little doubt in Emery’s mind that the safety position needed upgrading. Almost immediately when the UFA market opened they targeted and signed Ryan Mundy, from the Giants. It was a surprise to the fan base for most of us were expecting a top tier player. Then the followed it up by signing M.D. Jennings, FS from the Packers, Danny McCray, SS from Dallas. Re-signed, eight year vet, Craig Steltz. The Bears have kept Chris Conte and decided to let Major Wright go, who then signed with Tampa Bay.
I would be lying if we were not a bit disappointed with who the Bears have brought in, most of us were looking for impact names that would anchor the eye sore of 2013. With the lack of a big name player that has fuelled the speculation the Bears will take either Dix or Pryor at 14 and maybe Buchannon at 51 or both. The Bears have worked out all three during the prospect visit time period and some mock drafts now are showing the Bears taking either Dix or Pryor in the first round.
While I would not be disappointed in any of those players or scenarios, I am beginning to think that the Bears might just wait till the third round of later before taking a safety. Now I know, most will shake their heads, and think I am crazy, and maybe I am over thinking it a bit. However, we need to look at what Emery has done this off season and look at it logically.
1. Signing Mundy. That happened fast, almost day one. He was the first name mentioned and got him for $1.5M. Ryan started seven games last season for the Giants and played FS and SS. He acquitted himself and is a better tackler than in coverage. Yes, he is a bit of an unknown still but most would say he is an upgrade over Wright. My instincts say the Bears see something they really like or they would not have grabbed him so fast. They could have waited and gotten him cheaper as the UFA market dragged on, they didn’t want to chance it.
2. M. D. Jennings. A lot of fans were perplexed by this signing. Most Packer fans didn’t like him, and the Packers let him go. Last season was horrible but like Conte, his 2012 season was good. In 2012, his first season starting he was ranked high by PFF for his coverage skills. This has puzzled me how two safeties (Conte and Jennings) have had decent seasons in 2012 and then train wrecks in 2013. In analysing PFF stats the only correlation I found was that both teams pass rush failed miserably. We know that when the pass rush is bad, the pressure on safeties is extreme. I wrote a while back here at, BearsGogglesOn, about Conte and I suspect Jennings has been made more the victim than a bad player.
I am not saying Jennings is the savior, far from it, but the Bears see something in him or they wouldn’t have wasted the money and time to sign him, with all the other talent out there at the time. He will get his shot along with Conte, when he returns from shoulder surgery.
3. Dannie McCray. Known more for his special teams work but did start 10 games in 2012 for the Cowboys.
4. Craig Steltz. Has been with the Bears for eight years and his a special team player and nothing more. He has had his chances to start and is over his head. I suspect, Steltz is on the bubble this year.
5. Chris Conte. I have written about Chris extensively so will not repeat myself here. The shoulder surgery was a surprise and will have him out of action into training camp. It is possible he ends up on the PUP.
I admit this line up probably would not bring fear to too many NFL Quarterbacks. However, they all have one thing in common (except Steltz), they are young and athletic along with showing promise under fire. In looking at this roster of safeties, there is no doubt in my mind, Mundy will get the starter nod at SS. Jennings and Conte will fight it out for FS with McCray backing up Mundy.
Now back to the draft. It is understood that the first and second round picks should be starter ready. With Mundy having the slight nod to start at SS and Jennings/Conte at FS, would or should the Bears spend a premium pick to sit? Possibly. They also may decide to draft a hybrid player in the third like Huff or Watkins that can play S and CB. They also could wait later and bring in someone missed and park them on the practice squad for a season. They options are endless at this position.
For me though, I am starting to think they will draft a safety more in the middle than earlier. They have spent money, time and effort in bringing in three players that have all the ability to start. A risk indeed, and one that says they will draft one or more safeties (or college free agent). In the end, I will be happy no matter how it plays out.
When you look at what Emery has done with the defensive line in securing solid pass rushers, and the fact when the pass rush does its job, the safeties have an easier go at it. It is possible in the minds of the Bears organization that they have solved the Safety issue during the UFA season and drafting one high is no longer a priority. We will find out next week. Regardless, the safety position is better now than this time last season.