Chicago's passing defense finished 20th in the league last year. Coach Lovie Smith surely isn't satisfied with that level of production. Early in the year, it was CB Zack Bowman getting beat by everyone who lined up across from him. In the playoffs, it was CB Tim Jennings getting burned. And now there's news from the Scouting Combine that Charles Tillman may be moving to safety. So where does that leave the Bears at cornerback?
Jennings had a surprisingly solid campaign last year. He stepped up with some big plays in some big games and earned Smith's trust. Then he got railroaded by the Green Bay receiving corp in the NFC Championship. One has to think some of that trust washed off. He'll get a shot at keeping his starting spot in training camp but the front office will most likely bring someone in to challenge him.
That person may already be on the roster: Joshua Moore, last year's fifth round pick who hardly saw the field his rookie season. If Corey Graham leaves via free agency and Tillman shifts deep, Moore might be given a serious look at playing time. Although that is far from the ideal scenario. Since it's doubtful Bowman will ever be a starter, this off season could be a good time to pluck an established cornerback from the free agency pool. Here are eight cornerbacks Jerry Angelo could pursue once free agency begins.
If the Bears were to sign Asomugha, it would be the second year in a row they snagged the biggest prize of the free agent class. The 30-year-old veteran is arguably the best cover corner in the league. No one is as aggressive as him at attacking the ball in the air. Chicago's passing defense would jump five to 10 slots in the rankings just by him walking on the field. He'll command somewhere in the $12 million-$15 million range, but he would be worth it.
Joseph has paired with Leon Hall in Cincinnati the past four years to create one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. The 26-year-old will be testing the free market for the first time. His payday should be big. Over the last two years, he has developed into one of the better cover corners in the league. He is one of the best free agent options available at the position and a player who should be high on the Bears' list of priorities.
Cromartie has been cited for a lack of effort on occasion and can't tackle -- not really a Smith type of player. But he's as fast as they come and is solid in man-to-man coverage. Playing opposite Darrelle Revis last season, Cromartie saw plenty of balls thrown his way and he held up to the pressure. He also performed very well in last year's playoffs. He's not an ideal fit for the Cover 2 but he's very athletic and can be trusted in man coverage.
The 27-year-old is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in which he had 81 tackles and five interceptions. Grimes has progressed each season in the league and is now considered a top-five cover corner. The scary thing is, he hasn't reached his ceiling yet. He'll be making plenty more trips to Hawaii. If Angelo is wise, he'll try to make sure Grimes is representing Chicago during his island trips.
At 6-0, 207-pounds, Carr has the right size to play corner in the Cover 2. He is a very underrated defensive back having played in the shadow of Brandon Flowers his whole career. He's a physical cornerback who is strong against both the pass and run. A solid fit for Chicago.
The Steelers will do everything in their power to keep Taylor, so he may not be available. If he does test the market, he'll find out just how coveted veteran cornerbacks of his skill are these days. At 6-2, 195-pounds he has the size and experience to be a perfect fit with the Bears. If I were in Jerry Angelo's shoes, Taylor would be my guy.
Rogers is one of the toughest cornerbacks in the league. He plays physical with opposing receivers and is great in run support. Yet he's had long stretches of ineffectiveness. He was benched by then Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache in the second half of 2008 and 2009. Yet he played well under current coordinator Jim Haslett last year. He's a boom-or-bust type pickup.
Carr is not a spectacular cornerback but a very consistent one. He won't make the amazing play but he is solid in both man and zone coverages. He has good speed and is a decent tackler. At 5-10, 182-pounds, he doesn't have ideal size but he would make a very good nickelback at the very least.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.