Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
S Kenny Vaccaro (6’1 | 214 | 4.63): It was a steep fall for Vaccaro going from a 3rd place finish in defensive rookie of the year voting in 2013 to finishing as the 3rd worst safety in the NFL according to PFF in 2014 (81st out of 84). It may seem crazy to trade for a safety who finished graded lower than both Chris Conte and Brock Vereen last year, but Vaccaro was a first round pick two years ago and had a solid rookie year in 2013. As a rookie Vaccaro split his time between free safety, slot corner and strong safety. in 2014, Vaccarro was primarily a strong safety. After a year of snaps at strong safety, it seems that’s not Vaccaro’s best position.
Bears DC Vic Fangio prefers big, versatile safeties who can play either position to keep offensives guessing on the defensive alignment. Vaccaro has the prerequisite size, versatility to play free, strong, or even slot corner and is a physical run defender. Vaccato makes $3M per season in each of the next two seasons and the Saints already have Pro Bowler Jarius Byrd at one safety spot and versatile backup Rafael Bush (unrestricted free agent), and promisig rookie Pierre Warren as back ups. Vaccaro has a higher ceiling than any of those backups and is exactly the type of safety Fangio prefers in his scheme.
CB Keenan Lewis (6’0 | 208 | 4.47): Once rumors broke about the Saints looking to “reboot” their roster, Lewis started complaining about his contract and demanded a guaranteed 3-year contract extension. There is little to no chance that Lewis gets what he’s asking for which increases the chance that the Saints will deal Lewis. He’s a solid press corner with good size and combination of press & zone skills that matches what Fangio has looked for in his corners with the Niners. Lewis has a similar skill-set to Chris Culliver who started at corner for Fangio in San Fran last year and could earn the starting job across from Kyle Fuller with the Bears next season. His whining about his contract should lower Lewis’ trade price and the Bears could shore up the corner position at a limited cost. He’s not a great player, but is a better fit for the scheme than current CB2 Tim Jennings.
There is a lot of talent on the Saints roster that could potentially be available if the rumors are true about the Saints looking to reboot their roster. With both teams recently changing defensive schemes there could be players that would be better fits on the other team. The Saints are also tight against the salary cap and could be looking to free up some space for next season. So which player(s) should the Bears target? Any of the player on the above list would be a good addition for the Bears, but I think the best choice all things considered is….
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
DE Cameron Jordan
Jordan is a $7M hit against the Saints cap this season and then a free agent in 2016. With the switch to a 4-3 and less production from the 25-year-old Jordan last season there is definitely a chance he could leave in free agency for a scheme that better fits his talent (or a team with a better chanhe to win). So instead of losing Jordan for nothing next year, the Saints could add a 4-3 DE in Willie Young who is under contract for two more seasons at less money ($6M) than Jordan makes this year. Young had the same amount of sacks as Jordan last year (10) and a similar grade from PFF despite playing 335 less defensive snaps. The Bears may need to throw in a mid round pick as well, but they won’t find a player close to Jordan’s ability that late in the draft anyway. The Saints would get a DE who has similar value in their 4-3 base scheme, save about $4M this season, and get a draft pick to speed up their reboot, while the Bears get an All-Pro talent at their weakest position right now (RDE). I think the trade makes sense on a lot of levels for both teams.
Other Bears who may not fit in either a 3-4 or John Fox’s power run scheme are CB Tim Jennings, DE Jared Allen, DT Will Sutton and LT Jermon Bushrod, but I’m not sure how much trade value (if any) those players will have around the league. Young’s breakout 2014 season (10 sacks) and relatively low remaining salary (2 yrs, $6M), make him the Bears best trade piece assuming he is recovered from a late season injury.