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The Chicago Bears locked up their third and final exclusive rights free agent¹ today with a two-year contract for cornerback Demontre Hurst. The financial details of the contract aren’t available at this point, but I’m guessing it is a minimum deal around $500k-$750k per season.
Hurst went undrafted in 2013 despite a solid career at Oklahoma and was signed to the Bears practice squad where he spent his rookie season. He made the Bears opening day roster last season and ended the year as their primary slot corner. When the Bears released Isaiah Frey after week 5, Hurst moved into the lineup as the slot corner and held his own. His aggressiveness in the secondary was a welcome addition to the Bears defense as was his willingness to contribute in run support. Hurst finished the season with 39 tackles, 1 INT, and 1 forced fumble. His season grade from Pro Football Focus was -1.8 which was good for 51st overall among the 108 corners who played at least 25% of their team’s defensive snaps.
Here is what I wrote about Hurst in my Bears free agent preview:
"CB Demontre Hurst – Was the Bears slot corner for the last third of the season and showed flashes of competence with positive grades in five of his last seven games. Hurst diagnoses plays quickly, breaks on the ball well and is very aggressive in run support. He’s small (5’10) and doesn’t have great hands, but his unusually long arms and 37″ vertical help make up for his lack of height. The Bears didn’t allow him to blitz much, but he showed good instincts and timing when he did and depending on who takes over the Bears defense, Hurst could be a lot more active rushing the passer. Regardless of who takes over as head coach, there is a shortage of competent defensive backs in the league. A young player like Hurst, who has shown the potential to be an impact player in the slot, is worth keeping around. Due to his inexperience the price tag on Hurst should be modest and he could be a good value down the road if he solidifies his spot as the starting slot corner."
With promising young corners Hurst, Al Louis-Jean and Kyle Fuller under contract for the next few years, the Bears now have some building blocks for their secondary behind former Pro Bowl veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman (if re-signed). Hurst should be in the mix for the slot corner position in 2015, regardless of who the Bears bring in.
¹ An exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) is a player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. If his original team makes a contract offer at the two or three year veteran minimum, the player must return to his team. His original team must make a contract offer by the league deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No draft pick compensation is awarded if a team loses an ERFA.