Do Chicago Bears have their starting safeties on the roster?

Chicago Bears (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears signed Dane Cruikshank in a move that went under-noticed but could wind up being underrated for the team moving forward. While the signing was for low-end money, it locked up the third safety on the roster, with Cruikshank joining Eddie Jackson and DeAndre Houston-Carson.

While the team will likely keep four and possibly even five safeties on their final 53-man roster, there is a question about what the role of the fourth safety that they add would have. In the case of Cruikshank and Houston-Carson, you have two safeties who have often played the dime role when they got onto the field for defensive purposes.

In a simplistic look at a defense, the two profile similarly and would be the strong safeties to the free safety Jackson. If the team adds safety at some point, it could just be a backup-free safety. That would mean that one of Cruikshank and Houston-Carson would be starting.

Chicago Bears could start Dane Cruikshank or DeAndre Houston-Carson at safety

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. First, as noted, both DHC and Cruikshank have had similar roles early into their careers. They are both long and athletic, and both are under the age of 30. Both excel on special teams, mainly due to their tackling, and that is why both are so good in dime roles.

Still, while both are comfortable in the dime role only would play there, because the other could have won the starting strong safety job. Having the two compete and having the loser fill into dime gives the defense flexibility. When they go to dime, DHC and Cruikshank can take on interchangeable roles.

Another reason that they are likely looking for one of these two to ascend into starting status is their age and performances last season. We wrote excessively about how DHC was a revelation on defense when Deon Bush and Tashaun Gipson were hurt.

He never quite earned a job but once he got onto the field we wrote that he may be a starter. At age 28, they could still get a few quality years out of him. Cruikshank is only 26 years old, and last season was labeled a tight end eraser for his work on Travis Kelce and George Kittle.

If that is just his role, and DHC starts, that is a great role to have, but his play last season may have shown Chicago that they can give him even more duties this year, and he can outperform a low contract that they gave out.

Speaking of the low contract that they gave out, the last reason that they are likely to let Cruikshank and Houston-Carson compete to start this offseason is the investment in the safety position.

Cruikshank and Houston-Carson got paid about the minimum salary but may have taken it knowing they could see starting snaps.

The team is investing in Eddie Jackson as one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Whether you feel he deserves it or not, Ryan Pace put Ryan Poles in a spot where he has to give Jackson a year to find himself in the defense, or force Poles to move on.

With that in mind, Poles is already investing the ninth most amount of cap space to the safety position, and that is with two guys barely making a dent. Poles should think that two young safeties can duel it out and if they find a starter, that is great. If Jackson finds himself, that is great. If not, they have heaps of cap space to fix the mess next year.

Right now, they are already too invested in the position and do not have the resources to fix it with more than their two options.

Fans are likely saying a draft is an option, but the team only has so many picks this year, and more holes than safety to fill. They cannot spend a top 100 pick on a safety, and a six or seventh-round pick on safety would be a backup-free safety. That player could even be a UDFA.

Fans saying that Cruikshank and Houston-Carson are not some huge leaps for their favorite draft crush in round seven to beat out. However, they have to remember that these two were darling sleepers in their respective drafts, and both of them have taken about four years to earn a starting shot. Seventh-round picks win jobs on special teams, and after years of consistency may get shots, and that is what these two are.

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Giving two younger players with bits and pieces of good tape and solid special teams play a chance to fight for one starting spot, with the loser heading into the dime role could bring out the best in both. If it fails, they at least know where a hole to address sits in 2023. It is not the worst strategy, and we may find soon that is exactly what the Chicago Bears are doing.