The Chicago Bears will have some decisions to make at safety in 2021, but before they get their personnel decided on, they’ll need to have a good handle on what they’ll expect from the position.
We saw some schematic things these last two years from Chuck Pagano that we didn't see during Vic Fangio’s run at defensive coordinator, so once new play caller Sean Desai and his defensive coaching staff have an idea on how they’ll play next season, then they can go about filling some holes on the roster.
Here’s where the safety room stands with the 2020 now concluded.
Eddie Jackson - Signed through 2024 - I know a lot of fans think that Jackson needs to get back to playing centerfield for the Bears to get his numbers up, but a lot of his big plays and turnovers came with him rotating underneath in disguised coverages. Our Rule of 3 co-host, Brandon Robinson, had a mini Twitter thread about that last offseason. One of the staples of a Fangio scheme is a pattern matching zone coverage, which to put as simply as possible, is a zone up until it becomes a man. While Desai has said he’ll make his defense his own, I would expect some of that from him to, and Jackson did play his best under Fangio.
Tashaun Gipson Sr. - Free agent - At some point the Bears need to draft and develop a safety to pair with Jackson, but I think they can hold off on that at least one more year by bringing Gipson back for another season. He’ll turn 31 this August, so the Bears could probably get him back on a similar 1 year veteran minimum type of deal.
Deon Bush - Free agent - Bush has been around for five years and he’s never been able to consistently crack the lineup on defense. He’s been a fill in for injury and an occasional dime player, so the Bears might let him walk this offseason.
DeAndre Houston-Carson - Free agent - DHC has had a similar career to his draftmate Bush, but while he also hasn’t been able to make a dent on defense, he has a become a core special teams player. I could see him back to compete for a reserve safety role in 2021.
Sherrick McManis - Free agent - McManis has carved out his niche as a special teams stalwart during his 9 years in Chicago. He led the Bears with 11 special teams’ tackles in 2020, which is the 6th time since 2013 he’s led the team in that category. He’s played every position in the secondary as well, so if the price is right, I could se him back for another go.
Jordan Lucas - Signed through 2021 - Lucas was signed to a 1-year deal last offseason, but when he opted out due to concerns over the pandemic his contract pushed to 2021. He’ll be looking for a backup/special teams role next year.
Marqui Christian - Signed through 2021 - Christian spent part of the year on the Bears practice squad and he signed a reserve/futures deal after the season.
2021 OUTLOOK - I know I sound like a broken record when talking about the salary cap and how Chicago’s defense makes up so much of it, but because of that I don’t see the Bears spending big at safety in free agency. They might find a veteran forced to sign for less, but unless there’s a guy out there that would be a clear upgrade on a vet minimum salary, then I say the Bears will just re-sign a couple of their own guys.
The Bears went cornerback on day three the last two years and they haven’t grabbed a day three safety since they got Jackson in 2017. If the Bears do plan to play some heavy nickel or dime looks, then maybe they look for an athletic safety at some point.
I think the earliest the Bears would take a safety would be day three, but I wouldn’t be mad if they got a guy in the first three rounds (as long as they also added to their o-line early too).
What do you guys think the Bears will do at safety this offseason?