If there is one thing the Bears have become alarmingly good at lately, it’s depleting their roster of talent.
To help create cap space, the Bears cut veteran cornerback Kyle Fuller on Thursday. The two-time Pro Bowler was the No. 14 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and spent all seven seasons in Chicago.
The Bears were already in need of nickel cornerback prior to Fuller’s release, but now a capable starter opposite of Jaylon Johnson is on the long and constantly growing list of needs on the roster.
Finding a player as consistent and productive as Fuller will be difficult to find.
Here are three options the Bears can look into to try and replace Fuller.
The Bears drafted Kindle Vildor with the 163rd overall pick in the fifth round of last year’s draft.
Prior to Fuller’s release, Vildor seemed like a prime candidate to compete for the starting nickel spot with Duke Shelley in 2021. But given the current circumstances, Vildor looks like he may be staying as an outside cornerback.
In Vildor’s rookie season, the former Georgia Southern cornerback saw limited playing time. But he did get a chance to play on the outside when Johnson — the 50th overall pick in the 2020 draft — went down for the season in Week 14 with a shoulder injury.
Vildor showed some good instincts, occasionally jumping underneath routes and almost intercepted Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 17. But, as expected, he had his down moments as well. Against the Jaguars, Vildor was targeted seven times and gave up five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.
For first-year defensive coordinator Sean Desai, it will be interesting to see if he would trust Vildor, who only had 136 total defensive snaps, to take over as the full-time starter.
(Prior to this article being published, the Bears signed veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant to a one-year deal.)
Given Chicago’s cap situation, it doesn’t seem likely the Bears would spend big money on any cornerbacks in free agency.
A trend that general manager Ryan Pace could continue is giving former first-round draft picks a second opportunity: Adoree’ Jackson fits that mold. Last season, Pace signed Artie Burns (25th overall pick in 2016) and Barkevious Mingo (6th overall pick in 2013) to one-year contracts.
Jackson was the 18th overall pick in 2017 and became a four-year starter for the Tennessee Titans. In 46 games, the former USC Trojan recorded 200 tackles and 33 passes defended. But he only intercepted two passes.
And last season, Jackson missed 13 games due to a knee injury. If Jackson is willing to try out a one-year, prove-it deal, that would be something Chicago would be interested in doing.
According to The Athletic, the Titans liked to use a lot of Cover 3, and in 2018, when the Bears defense was best in the league, former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used that coverage 20.6% of the time — the second-most frequent coverage behind Cover 1 for Chicago that season.
With Desai now the defensive coordinator, there is a good chance the defense will revert back to those tendencies.
At just 25 years old, Jackson would be an intriguing player to add — even if it’s just for one season.
With the Bears’ offensive deficiencies, ideally Chicago would look to address this side of the ball with their first-round pick. But since the Bears like to sign bridge quarterbacks like Andy Dalton to $10-million deals, cornerback could be an option with the 20th overall pick.
The player that makes a lot of sense for the Bears is Northwestern’s Greg Newsome. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback finished with 71 total tackles, 20 passes defensed and one interception in his three years with the Wildcats.
Newsome has had some injuries throughout his Northwestern career, missing time in each of his three seasons. But in an interview with NFL Network’s Stacey Dales at Northwestern’s pro day, Newsome weighed in on the concern some teams may have about his past injuries.
— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) March 10, 2021
Also at Northwestern’s pro day, Newsome clocked in an unofficial 4.38 second 40-yard dash.
There are several routes the Bears can take to address the vacancy at cornerback. Once the organization figures out how to address the position, Chicago will have to move on and repeat the process for many of the other needs currently on the roster.
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