Marcus Cooper was a somewhat polarizing signing for the Chicago Bears.
On the one hand, there were a lot of folks who looked at Cooper and saw a player that benefited from playing across from Patrick Peterson. They saw a player that wasn’t truly a starter until his fourth season in the NFL. They saw a player that was nearly dead-last in the Pro Football Focus (PFF) rankings for cornerbacks. We were trying to get better in the secondary, not worse right?
Then there was another segment that looked at his stats and said that in 24 starts, he has 7 interceptions and 35 passes defensed, how bad can he be? They looked into the way that PFF grades cornerbacks and sees that pass interference penalties carry a severe negative grade, thus dragging down that of Cooper’s. They also point this letter as evidence of the type of hard-nosed football players that befit a Bears uniform.
Well I choose to look somewhere in between. I see a player with the tremendous size and length that Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell covet in cornerbacks. I see a player that has obvious ball skills, but who can also get caught with his pants down. Cooper appears to be a player on the ascent. He enters a situation where he has well-regarded defensive coaches to fine-tune his development. Ryan Pace also signed him to the perfect prove-it contract. Easy out after year-one but 2 more years of cheap control if he pans out.
No matter which camp you fall in with the Cooper signing, there is one thing that we all should be able to agree on, he is an upgrade over what was on the field last year. For a reasonably small investment and with a large upside, even the most cynical of Bears fans can get excited about his potential. An improved front-7 shouldn’t hurt either.
Experience: 5th-year pro
Weight: 192 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
According to Spotrac, Cooper signed a 3 year, $16,000,000 contract, including $8,000,000 guaranteed. In 2017, Cooper will earn a base salary of $3,000,000, a signing bonus of $1,500,000 and a roster bonus of $1,500,000, while carrying a cap hit of $5,000,000. Digging a bit deeper and you see that this is really a 1-year, $6,000,000 contract, with $1,000,000 in dead money if cut prior to March 2018.
Reason for improvement in 2017
Since Cooper is a new Bear, I am looking at this from the perspective of not only improvement on his personal 2016 season but of the player(s) he is replacing as well. If the front-7 stays healthy, Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman play to the potential that each have only begun to show, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston round into form, and Akiem Hicks shows that 2016 was not a fluke, then the secondary as a whole should eat (insert gif of Ezekiel Elliott after literally every single rush attempt in 2016). The amount of pressure, against both the run and the pass, that this front-7 should force, is a major boon to the secondary. A player with Cooper’s ball-skills should be able to rack-up multiple interceptions.
Reason for regression in 2017
This is where I get a tad hesitant about the Cooper signing. He got a lot of opportunities because he played opposite of Patrick Peterson. He also had a really good front-7 in Arizona, and in Kansas City as a rookie. The pass interference penalties are scary. That is basically the same as giving up a catch and making the tackle right away. These are legitimate concerns and the Bears do not have a sterling track record with free agent defensive backs.
Final roster odds
Concerns aside, his contract is such that he is not going anywhere when final cuts come down. There is simply no way that you are going to walk away from a player who’s guaranteed money is all up front and who also seems to have a significant upside. I view this signing as similar to the Hicks signing last year. Hopefully, the performance matches as well. Marcus Cooper will make the team and should be one of the starting cornerbacks once the season starts. A huge camp by Kyle Fuller could make this an interesting battle however...
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