After the disappointment of the Bears’ 2020 season, many lamented what was perceived by some to be an unfortunate unforced error in spring roster cuts. I’m talking, of course, about the release of Kyle Fuller — who Chicago could not hang onto due to unfortunate salary cap circumstances.
Fuller’s release allowed Jaylon Johnson to transition to become the Bears’ No. 1 corner. At the same time, it also left a sizable hole on the other boundary. A hole that many opposing offenses exploited repeatedly in 2021. With the Bears and GM Ryan Poles on the short end of the stick regarding many needs, especially on offense (receiver, guard, tackle, to name a few), they could do worse than facilitating a reunion.
The Bears should bring Kyle Fuller back, this time making him their No. 2 cornerback.
Fuller, 30, did not have the year many expected with the Denver Broncos last season. The initial perception was that former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio — who helped Fuller garner two Pro Bowl selections and a First-Team All-Pro pick in 2018 — would again allow the corner to flourish.
That did not happen. Far from it.
Instead, Fuller struggled mightily in his new life at Mile High. He missed more than a few starts (six) for the first time since missing the entire 2016 season, and it wasn’t due to injury. The Broncos and Fangio simply benched someone who was supposed to be a centerpiece.
I don’t expect Fuller to have that much left in the tank. But I think it’s fair to posit that a change in scenery, even with Fangio's scheme familiarity, might have been a lot to take in during the second phase of his career. Who among us hasn’t been comfortable changing jobs and cities after spending years in one place?
Now imagine what it’s like to compete against some of the best athletes in the world in a thin-oxygen, high-altitude environment. I can’t imagine it was an easy place to play for Fuller after getting accustomed to the comparatively low-altitude swamp known as Soldier Field.
Bringing Fuller back to Chicago on a cheap basis almost makes too much sense. He’d be in his old stomping grounds, comfortable again. Plus, in a corner-friendly Cover-2 scheme under Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams — he could lean more on his trademark physicality to punish receivers and running backs.
Johnson would take the top coverage assignment and put playmakers on Johnson Island. Fuller would then hit them off the deserted island into the water. It’s an ideal set-up for a veteran who probably can’t run as well as he used to but can still hold his own overall.
There shouldn’t be any concern about Fuller being a long-term answer either. Signing him doesn’t necessarily preclude the Bears from selecting a worthwhile corner in the 2022 Draft (highly advisable at some point; after they address the offense first, wink, wink). Fuller fills in the gap admirably on a team that should be trying to compete in a weak NFC, while Young Player A develops in the wings to take over eventually.
Another win-win scenario.
Fuller is likely biding his time for the perfect offer in the gazillionth wave of free agency as his career starts to wind down. If they aren’t already, the Bears should be meeting him halfway and giving him one last nice safety net.