CB Eric Rowe (traded for by Pats) – Rowe was drafted by the Eagles in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft (#47 overall) but wasn’t a fit in new Eagles DC Jim Schwartz scheme. Where Row does fit well is in Bears DC Vic Fangio’s scheme, as I wrote about before last year’s draft. Fangio prefers safeties who can play corner and still contribute against the run. Rowe played three years of safety at Utah before switching to corner his senior year. His size (6’1, 205), speed (4.45), and ability to both cover and stop the run are almost identical to that of Adrian Amos who started 16 games for the Bears as a rookie.
Whether the Bears used Rowe as a safety across from Amos, giving the Bears two versatile safeties that Fangio could disguise in either deep or in-the-box coverage or as a tall corner to backup Fuller and/or Porter outside, Rowe seemed to me like an ideal fit for the Bears.
Unfortunately, the Patriots were thinking the same thing and nabbed Rowe for just a 4th round pick. It was rumored that the Eagles asked the Bears for backup OLB Christian Jones and a 4th/5th rounder. Seems like a steal to me, if that rumor is true. Most likely a Bears 4th rounder will have much more value than one from the Patriots and Christian Jones was on the bubble to even make the Bears final roster and plays at perhaps their deepest position.
Young players with upside:
CB Zack Sanchez (Panthers practice squad) – Aggressive slot corner who I had hoped the Bears could steal in the 6th round of this year’s draft. Sanchez ended up going in the 5th round to the Carolina Panthers but was surprisingly released during final cuts.
For a team like the Bears who have struggled to create turnovers, the ball-hawk Sanchez would have been a good fit. He had 13 interceptions (7 last year) at Oklahoma and 28 pass breakups. He’s undersized (5’11, 185) but showed no hesitation against the run in college with 134 career tackles. Sanchez has plenty of athleticism to play at the NFL level (4.48 40, 35″ vertical, and 19 reps of 225 pounds).
Worst case Sanchez would have been a solid developmental corner on the practice squad, but I would have rather seen a player with upside on the active roster than a corner like Sherrick McManis who the Bears already know is only a special teams player. Sanchez surprisingly cleared waivers and ended up back on the Panthers practice squad, so maybe there are some red flags I don’t know about.
S Terrance Brooks (Eagles) – A third round pick by the Ravens in 2014, Brooks was my 3rd rated safety in that draft behind Haha Clinton Dix & Calvin Pryor. He’s undersized (5’11, 198) but has elite speed (4.37) and hits like a rocket when he has a full head of steam. His speed gives him plenty of range in coverage and he can hit enough to not be a liability in the run game. Brooks doesn’t catch well with only 4 interceptions over the last four years between college and the Ravens, but gets his hands on plenty of passes.
Brooks played in 23 games with the Ravens his first two years in the league and didn’t do much with just 26 tackles and 3 pass deflections, but has the potential for more and at worst his elite speed could have been an asset on special teams. Keeping Prosinkski at safety over an upside guy like Brooks makes little sense to me.
S Marqueston Huff (Jags) – I had Huff two spots behind Brooks in my 2014 safety rankings and he was selected a round later by the Titans in the 4th. He’s a similar player to Brooks in size (5’11, 198), speed (4.49) and aggressiveness in the run game (127 tackles as a senior). The difference with Huff and what I thought would interest the Bears is that he played corner for three years before switching to safety (just like Adrian Amos).
Huff played at Wyoming, so the learning curve was a little higher than with Brooks or Amos who came out of Power 5 schools, but Huff has NFL athleticism and has proven he can contribute in coverage, run support, and special teams.
Again, why keep a guy like Prosinksi, who at his ceiling is barely an NFL player, over a guy like Huff who has the potential to be an impact player? Huff has played in 30 games over his first two NFL seasons with 23 tackles, an interception, 23-yard TD return, and 4 pass defenses.
CB Alex Carter (Lions PS) – Tall corner (6’1, 200) who was a 3rd round pick by the Lions just two drafts ago. He spent his rookie year on the injured reserve, but the corner from LSU was considered a borderline first-round pick in 2013 before deciding to stay in school one more year. He’s still only 21 years old and has the size, speed (4.51), and a 40″ vertical to hang with the tallest receivers in the NFL.
Carter hasn’t done anything in his two NFL seasons, but why not roll the dice on a former 3rd round pick, who is just 21 years old, has elite size and measurables, and plays for a division rival? I hate to keep picking on Prosinksi or McManis, but neither are ever going to be above average players in the secondary and shouldn’t a rebuilding team value defensive upside more than special teams reliability?
On a related note Bears UDFA Tavese Calhoun was signed today off their practice squad by the New Orleans Saints. That’s one less one young corner the Bears have as depth in case the starters aren’t healthy or good enough to handle the job. Calhoun impressed early in camp and had the potential to develop into a solid press corner by 2017.
I still think the Bears secondary is the biggest weakness on their team. I like the LeBlanc singing, but I don’t think it was nearly enough. With at least five or six high-upside players available after finals cuts or on the trading block, the Bears should have done more to improve their talent level and future secondary than keep older special teams only players like Chris Prosinski and Sherrick McManis. Hopefully I’m wrong.