1) Aqib Talib (UFA) — If the Bears decide to part ways with Charles Tillman, Talib needs to be their main focus. He’s the best cornerback available in free agency and at 27 years old is still in his prime. He’s had some off-the-field problems in his past, but as the Bears proved with Brandon Marshall, they’re willing and able to deal with those. Talib could be franchise-tagged by the Patriots in hopes of working out a long-term deal, especially since they’ll need to spend money in so many other areas next season.
2) Captain Munnerlyn (UFA) — Munnerlyn may only be 5-8, but he’s become a shut-down cornerback for a Carolina Panthers defense that has emerged as one of the best in the league. He’s tied his career-high with 12 pass deflections this season and has a knack for scoring touchdowns off interceptions, something that Chicago Bears fans have grown accustomed to on defense, at least before this season. His $1.1 million cap hit in 2013 will likely balloon next season, but the Bears need to spend money in their secondary if they hope of rebuilding the defense.
3) Alterraun Verner (UFA) — Verner has enjoyed a breakout season in Tennessee, snagging a career-high five interceptions and accumulating 56 tackles. He’s yet to miss a game during his four-year career and has punt returner and kick returner experience. Verner will likely look for a big pay increase this offseason and will want to be the No. 1 cornerback on whichever team he lands on. The Bears could have a very difficult time competing for his services.
1) T.J. Ward (UFA) — Ward certainly isn’t the biggest name safety available this offseason, but he’s one of the more realistic options for the Bears. At 27 years old, Ward has enjoyed a breakout season as part of an underrated Browns defense, accumulating 112 tackles and two interceptions this year. The Browns recently fired head coach Rob Chudzinski which could force several of the team’s free agents to look elsewhere. The Bears need to replace both of their safeties and Ward would be a sure-fire way to start rebuilding the defense.
2) Malcolm Jenkins (UFA) — Jenkins would be a big-ticket signing for the Bears and would give them the playmaking safety the Bears haven’t had since Mike Brown. Jenkins has been a leader on a resurgent Saints defense and will likely turn this season’s success into a huge contract. The Bears won’t likely be able to afford him, but he’s still worth a long look.
3) Stevie Brown (UFA) — Brown would undoubtedly be the riskiest signing of the bunch, seeing as how he’s coming off ACL surgery from a preseason injury in 2013. However, at 26 years old, Brown would be worth a look at the right price tag to compete for a starting position. The Bears would need to first sign one of the previously mentioned safeties — or somebody else equally strong — in order to make the Brown signing plausible. At this point any added competition and depth at the position would be a warm welcome.