The Chicago Bears safety carousel, which has been spinning endlessly since the early 2000s, continued its non-stop circular rotation last season. The Bears addressed the position in both free agency (Antrel Rolle) and the draft (Adrian Amos) yet there are just as many question marks surrounding the position heading into 2016 as there were in 2015.
With that in mind, let's break down in detail the play of Chicago's safeties last year.
The Bears signed Rolle to a three-year contract last off-season, including $4.9 million in guaranteed money, all of which he earned last year. There is no guarateed money in his contract going forward.
With his $5 million cap hit, Rolle was one of the most disappointing players on the team. He came into the campaign having missed just one game his previous seven seasons, yet 2015 was an injury mess for the 33-year-old.
An ankle injury suffered in Week 4 shut him down for two weeks. He then sprained his MCL in practice in Week 11 and was placed on Injured Reserve four weeks later.
All together, Rolle played just seven games for the Bears, accumulating 35 total tackles and 1 pass breakup.
An 11-year veteran - who was drafted as a cornerback by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 draft - Rolle's contributions extended beyond the field and into the locker room. He served as leader both on and off the field and helped mentor Amos during his rookie season.
Rolle said he'll be ready to go for the start of off-season activities.
"I know I’ll be ready. There’s no doubt about it," he said after the season ended. "I’ll be ready. I’ve been on it 100 percent since the day this happened. But you have to be smart as a defensive back. You can’t go out there with your knee unstable and obviously questionable. So I think it was the right move on both parties. They put me on IR and allowed me myself to get right mentally as well as physically and bounce back."
Yet whether or not Rolle will be playing in a Bears uniform remains to be seen. Playing 398 snaps last year, he gave up 13 receptions on 15 targets (86.7 percent) with four missed tackles. He's obviously no longer the player he once was and is nearing the end of his Pro Bowl career. He has value off the field but his decline on the field, as well as his age and injuries, are of serious concern.
My guess: The Bears will let Rolle walk this off-season and will sign a younger veteran in free agency.
Drafted in the fifth round (142nd overall) out of Penn State, Amos was a pleasant surprise for the Bears this year. He earned the starting gig coming out of training camp and was on the field for more snaps (1,046) than any other Bears defender.
He finished the year with 67 total tackles - third most on the team - with 1 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack and two pass breakups.
Amos had a team-high 10 missed tackles but don't let that fool you, as that total was due to volume. For frame of reference, had Rolle played as many snaps as Amos, he would have finished with 11 missed tackles.
In reality, Amos was outstanding as a tackler and was a force in run support. As an in-the-box safety, Amos plays downhill. He's physical in taking on blocks and attacking running backs, and shows good form when wrapping up ball carriers. In terms of run support, he played at an extremely high level his rookie season.
Yet coverage is where Amos struggled. He was targeted 25 times, allowing 20 receptions (80.0 percent) and a touchdown. Amos lacked confidence when the ball was in the air, taking bad angles of attack and mis-timing plays on the football. He doesn't have good anticipation or field vision in coverage, an area of his game he must improve going forward.
Finally, Amos didn't cause a single turnover all season.
Prosinski is a fifth-year veteran who was signed off the street in Week 4 to replace Brock Vereen. He contributed on special teams from Weeks 4-10 and was named the starter in Week 11 following Rolle's knee injury.
He started off strong, picking up 12 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his first two starts but he dropped off substantially from that point on. By Week 16, Prosinski was benched.
He showed willingness in run support but he lacked tackling technique and took a number of very bad angles, a few of which resulted in touchdowns for the opposing offense. All together, he had five missed tackles in 34 defensive snaps. In coverage, he was targeted just four times, yet he allowed a reception every time.
Jones-Quartey is an undrafted rookie out of Findlay who earned a roster spot following a strong preseason. He played mainly special teams to start the year and filled in as a starter for Rolle in Weeks 5-6. He then started the final two contests of the regular season, replacing the ineffective Prosinski.
Jones-Quartey was not a liability in coverage, allowing 13 receptions on 19 targets. His 68.4 completion percentage against was the lowest of this four-man safety unit. Yet the catches he did allow were backbreakers, two of which went for touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a 124.8 passer rating when throwing at Jones-Quartey, the highest of Chicago's starting safeties.
His best game came in Week 16 against the Vikings, when he had 4 total tackles, 1 interception and 2 pass breakups. In the season finale, he had a team-high 7 tackles.
Amos is not a finished product by any means but he showed very well as a stabilizing force on the back end of the secondary. He was the only safety on the team to start all 16 games, showing top-tier value in run support. He's a long-term option that could develop into a special player if he improves in coverage.
Beyond Amos, the Bears don't have any great options. If Rolle returns, it's hard to see a player of his age getting any healthier or faster on the field. He looked like a 33-year-old when he was healthy, which only lasted seven games. Even if the Bears invite him back to training camp in 2016, GM Ryan Pace will surely add some competition to the mix, which should include Jones-Quartey, who did enough to earn another shot in Bourbonnais.
In reality, the Bears still need one more safety to finally put an end to the safety carousel. Whether that comes through free agency or the draft remains to be seen but you can expect Pace to look very hard for a competent player to pair with Amos for the long-term.null