Chicago Bears Free Agency Wish List: Defensive Backs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bears are projected to have around $50 million in available cap space even after the $14.955 franchise tag applied to Alshon Jeffery. That number factors in plenty of variables including the trade or release of tight end Martellus Bennett and other dead roster weight of players, who won’t be on the squad next season. The ten million or so needed for the rookie signing pool is factored in as well, bringing the available to just under $5o million.

The Bears would need about double that number to fill all of the holes in the starting lineup on both sides of the ball. GM Ryan Pace has been adamant about spreading the money around and not putting all his eggs in one basket, which seems like a sound strategy given the multiple needs at almost every position on the roster. I’ve used the estimated cap space and Pace’s reluctance to splurge on one or two high priced free-agents to come up with a list of players I think the Bears should target this off-season.

It’s not a top-heavy or even relatively deep free agent class, but there were some tough choices on which players the Bears should target at their positions of greatest need. At those positions when the decision was toughest, I’ve added a note or two about my second choice at the position. I’ve used Spotrac’s market-value projection tool for the estimated free agency numbers with an occasional slight adjustment up or down based on gut instinct.

Before you rip me in the comments, please understand that this is a wish list and not a prediction of who I think the Bears will sign. I think it’s realistic for the Bears to come out of free agency with 4-5 new starters, but that has more to do with the quality of the Bears current starters than the quality of the free agency class. I’ve broken the signings down by position of need and players at those positions who are players I think could make an impact, be solid starters, or depth players with starting potential, and finally long-shots who could start or at least contribute on special teams.

Wish List – Defensive Line

Wish List – Inside Linebacker

Wish List – Outside Linebacker

Bears Free Agent Wish List:

Defensive Backs

Like all of the Bears defensive position groups, there are more questions than answers in the defensive backfield. There were some players who came out of nowhere to become potential long-term pieces, some players projected to contribute who were glued to the bench by the end of the season, and then there is 2014 1st round pick Kyle Fuller who didn’t make the expected improvements last year but finished the season strong.

Right now the Bears have only three established defensive backs that are certain to be on the Bears roster in 2016. I already mentioned Fuller so I will start there. Fuller started his Bears career with a flourish, intercepting then competent QB Colin Kaepernick twice in the 4th quarter of a nationally televised Sunday night game in week 4. Then the next week on Mondy night football, Fuller had another interception and forced two fumbles. It had appeared the Bears found a play-maker at corner, but NFL QBs eventually found some holes in Fuller’s technique and he struggled in the 2nd half of his rookie year. His sophomore campaign was a mixed bag but he often drew the opposing team’s best receiver, held his own more often than not, and played well the 2nd half of the season. It seemed like the game slowed down for Fuller late in 2015 and if so, he should be able to lock down one of the Bears outside corner spots in 2016.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

The only other corner currently on the roster who is in line to see legitimate defensive snaps is slot corner Bryce Callahan. He was my favorite of the Bears undrafted free agents  and when given a chance developed into an aggressive, competent slot corner. Callahan is under-sized, but has unique athleticism (4.37 40-time, 41″ vertical) and proved to be an asset against the run and screen game. I was high on Callahan early and think he has the potential to be a long-term option in the slot.

The third player in the defensive backfield currently on the roster may have been the steal of the draft last season in 5th round pick Adrian Amos. Not to keep patting myself on the back, but Amos was the only pick I got right in my final Bears 7-round mock (though I had him as a 4th rounder). Amos was the only Bears defender who managed to start all 16 games and though he didn’t make many flash plays or force any turnovers, he didn’t make many mistakes either.

It was impressive to me that on a defensive where everyone was in a new scheme, Amos seemed to have a better idea where to be and what his responsibilities were than veteran DBs Antrel Rolle and Alan Ball did. While the stats don’t show any turnovers, Amos just missed a few interceptions, laid plenty of big hits on receivers over the middle and showed that he can be at least competent as a safety in Fangio’s scheme. In year two the game should slow down a little for Amos and if it does, those “almost” plays could turn into turnovers, big stops, and game-changing plays which is what the Bears defensive backfield was missing last year.

On the next page is my wish-list of who I think the Bears should target in the defensive backfield. As I mentioned above, I think GM Adam Pace is going to spread the Bears cap space around and I could see the Bears signed 3-4 defensive backs. Of all positions, I think Pace will add the most DBs and hope to get lucky with a Tracy Porter type free agent deal.

Next: Impact Players