Despite two Pro Bowlers, Bears need cornerback depth

Despite two Pro Bowlers, Bears need cornerback depth

The 2012 season was a banner year for the Bears’ two starting cornerbacks, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Jennings, who was benched at one point during the 2011 season in favor of Zack Bowman, bounced back with an impressive year, hauling in nine interceptions (two more than his career total of seven heading into 2012) en route to his first career Pro Bowl selection.

Tillman finished the season with three interceptions that were all taken back for touchdowns as well as forcing an unprecedented ten fumbles on his way to a second-straight Pro Bowl selection.

D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden both spent time at the nickelback position, but poor play ultimately led to Hayden getting the majority of the reps there. Both are slated to become free agents, and the Bears have made no indication on whether or not either will be returning next season.

The team drafted cornerbacks Greg McCoy and Isiah Frey in last year’s Draft, but McCoy was cut and Frey spent the season on the team's practice squad. Zack Bowman was signed midseason following a stint in Minnesota, and Sherrick McManis was traded to the team before the season opener, both were mostly special teams contributors.

So far, heading into the 2013 season, the Bears have only two legitimate starters signed in Tillman and Jennings, with McManis, Frey and offseason acquisition LeQuan Lewis signed mostly as special teams depth. The team will need to address not only overall depth but look to find someone who can play the nickelback position.

Hayden and Moore are both still a possibility to return, but given Moore's less than stellar performance last season and Hayden's age (30 in July), the team could be looking to get younger.

Some free agents who could be on the Bears’ radar are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cary Williams and Greg Toler. Both Rodgers-Cromartie and Williams will likely command big money, and if the Bears do not see value in signing either they could find a steal in Toler. He has been under the radar in Arizona but he’s a tough, physical cornerback and could provide good depth while also stepping in to play the nickelback position.

The upcoming Draft looks to be stocked with cornerback talent, and the Bears could find some solid depth at nearly all of their picks. Dee Milliner is expected to be gone when the team selects at 20, but if a guy like Florida State's Xavier Rhodes or Washington's Desmond Trufant are available, the Bears will have to think long and hard on whether or not to take the best player available or to draft for need.

If they wait past the first round there is a possibility of guys like Jonathan Banks, Jamar Taylor and David Amerson to be available when they select in the second round, or bigger risks such as Tyrann Mathieu in the fourth or fifth round.

Despite having two Pro Bowlers at the top of their depth chart, both Tillman and Jennings are getting older and their contracts expire after the 2013 season. It is possible that Tillman could get extended this offseason to help alleviate some cap concerns, but the reality is that neither he or Jennings are going to be around forever and sooner rather than later the position needs to be addressed.
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