For the Chicago Bears, it’s been a long, arduous search for a competent pair of safeties.
Not since 2001 when Mike Brown and Tony Parrish patrolled the deep waters have the Bears fielded a top-tier safety duo throughout a 16-game campaign. Safeties come and go in Chicago at seemingly the same rate Liam Neeson is forced to exact revenge on the big screen.
Try as they may – the Bears have selected a safety in all but one draft since 2005 – back-end consistency has eluded the secondary since the days of Dick Jauron.
Mundy was serviceable and earned another shot to start next season. Conte dealt with numerous concussions and shoulder injuries – he finished just five of the 12 games he started – and will soon be a free agent himself. Vereen has potential but he hardly stood out as a rookie.
The Bears may look to the draft to add long-term ointment to the safety contusion. Even so, for a position perpetually thin, expect new GM Ryan Pace to pursue at least one of the following veteran free agents.
Devin McCourty (5-10, 195) Age: 28
By any measure, McCourty is one of the best, most-dependable safeties in the league. The former first rounder has started all but three games the past five seasons in New England. He’s strong in run support and extremely adept in coverage. The two-time All Pro would be a substantial, game-changing upgrade to Chicago’s secondary. If the Bears are serious about ending the safety carousel, the front office will be aggressive in prying McCourty away from the Patriots.
Rahim Moore (6-1, 195) Age: 25
Moore nearly lost his leg a year ago due to lateral compartment syndrome but made a full recovery and started all 16 games last season. He was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft by current Bears head coach John Fox, for whom Moore has played under his entire career. He’s a solid all-around free safety who is only 25 years old and has experience under Fox. Moore is a strong, very realistic option.
Dwight Lowery (5-11, 212) Age: 29
Lowery is steady veteran safety who had two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 15 starts for the Falcons last year. He’s struggled with concussions in the past, which puts his risk on par with Conte, but a healthy Lowery/Mundy pairing would give the Bears an experienced, albeit unspectacular, safety duo.
Stevie Brown (5-11, 215) Age: 28
In 2012, Brown finished second in the league with eight interceptions but a torn ACL suffered the following preseason cost him the 2013 campaign. He struggled early in 2014 and was benched after three weeks, yet he played well as a starter the final five contests. Brown is now two years recovered from the knee injury and could be in line for a bounce-back season.
Da’Norris Searcy (5-11, 207) Age: 26
Searcy fared very well in his first year as a full-time starter for the Bills in 2014, racking up 65 tackles, 3 interceptions and 1 forced fumble. He’s an aggressive, in-the-box safety who is excellent in run support. He’s a four-year veteran with 23 career starts and has missed just one game due to injury. As a low-cost option, the Bears could get a steal in Searcy.
Louis Delmas (5-11, 210) Age: 28
Delmas has a lot of value as an experienced safety that performs well at both strong and free safety. He’s started 76 games in his five-year career. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in December and it’s unclear how the injury will affect his availability for the 2015 campaign. If he’s not healthy during offseason programs, Delmas is worth keeping an eye on if he’s available as the season progresses.
Darian Stewart (5-11, 214) Age: 27
After four forgettable seasons in St. Louis, Stewart played very well as the full-time starter in Baltimore last year, particularly against the run. He’s a physical safety who adds a layer of padding to the line of scrimmage. Stewart is a low-cost, high-reward option.
THE PICK: Devin McCourty
The Bears have numerous needs on defense, so investing $8 million-$10 million per season on a safety could compromise the rebuild process.
Yet McCourty is worth the money. In Chicago, security at safety has been as elusive as bipartisanism in American government. McCourty represents the answer for which the team has been searching the past decade-plus. The front office has consistently slapped Band-Aids on the problem, which has just facilitated the wild goose chase.
If Bears brass is fully invested in revamping the secondary, McCourty is the best course of action. He’s a pricey investment but his presence would help nurture developing players like Vereen and last year’s first rounder, cornerback Kyle Fuller.
McCourty is both the short- and long-term fix to a problem that has festered long enough. Now is the time to stop the bleeding.
Mike Adams (5-11, 200) Age: 33
The 11-year veteran had one of the best seasons of his career for the Colts last year. Does he have one more left in the tank?
LaRon Landry (6-0, 226) Age: 30
Landry still hits hard and played well in limited duty for the Colts last season. As a one-year option, the Bears could do worse.
Dawan Landry (6-1, 212) Age: 32
Landry has played in every game the past six years and has yet to show serious signs of slowing down, despite turning 32 in December. He’s a viable one-year candidate.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.