In exploring the nearing free agent market, a number of comments have expressed interest in the safety position. The Bears have had a lot of poor play at the safety position in the last few seasons and could definitely use a playmaker at the back end of the defense.
Much maligned Chris Conte is set to hit the open market and, at this point, it's best for both the Bears and him that he move on. Conte has been the best safety on the roster for the past few seasons, but injuries and glaring mistakes have plagued him, and he's never really recovered from the 2013 week 17 play that sealed his fate in the eyes of Bears fans.
The Bears could definitely target a safety in the draft but, by most accounts, it is a very weak safety class. If they want to go another direction with the No. 7 pick, it could be that they bypass safety again.
So, to cover his bases, perhaps Ryan Pace will look to the free agency market to help shore up the back end of the D.
Enter former Oakland Raider Tyvon Branch.
Now Branch differs from the other free agents-to-be I've written about because, since he was released by his current team, he is eligible to be signed right now.
Branch has been a solid player in his career, known more as an in-the-box safety playing the strong side. This is evident when looking at his career stats: only four career interceptions but 355 tackles.
While he's been a solid playmaker for much of his career, Branch does have some issues. He hasn't played 16 games since 2011, and he's played only five games in the past two seasons because of foot, leg and ankle injuries. The Bears are no stranger to safeties with health issues, so is this really the route they would want to go?
Branch is only 28 and likely still has some good years ahead of him, but his injury history and the overall wear on players at the safety position are red flags.
For what it's worth Profootballfocus has him as the 21st best safety, based on his three games last season with a .9 grade.
So do you think it's worth the risk to sign a proven safety with an injury track record? Maybe a one-year prove-it type deal? Or would you rather the Bears shore up the safety position through the draft or with a different player?