The Chicago Bears signed veteran cornerback Tracy Porter last off-season to a one-year, veteran-minimum contract. Heading into the regular season, Porter was an afterthought, with many questioning his value on the 53-man roster.
He dealt with injuries during training camp and the preseason, and missed the first two contests of the regular season. Yet due to the struggles of Alan Ball, Porter was inserted into the starting lineup in Week 4, a role he never relinquished.
In his first start, Porter held Oakland wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was coming off two straight 100-yard performances, to just 3 catches for 23 yards. From then on, Porter showed confidence and playmaking ability next to Kyle Fuller in the starting lineup.
Porter finished 2015 with a team-high 12 pass breakups, while receivers caught just 52.6 percent of passes with him in coverage.
Yet things began to unravel in the second half of the season, when Porter appeared to wear down. As the campaign progressed, he became less reliable and more prone to giving up the big play.
He finished the year allowing a whopping 7 touchdowns, which not only led the team but was also tied for 3rd most in the NFL among cornerbacks.
While he flashed playmaking potential, Porter is an average NFL corner at best, which is why he's played for four different teams the past four seasons. He'll make the occasional play but he's also going to get burned fairly regularly.
Porter becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 9. Should the Bears re-sign him?
At first blush, the Bears can do better. Any cornerback that allows 7 touchdowns obviously has some serious holes in his game and, at 30 years old, it's highly unlikely he'll suddenly develop into an All-Pro. The eight-year veteran's best days are behind him and they were never that great to begin with.
That said, Porter was by no means a liability and could have value as a No. 3 swing corner, or possibly nickelback, going forward.
Considering his age and his spotty past, he won't cost much more than the veteran minimum. He showed enough last year for the Bears to offer him another one-year deal at roughly $1 million. That's an investment worth making, even if he doesn't pan out in 2016.
Yet even if the team re-signs him, there's no way they'll go into next season with Porter being the only option opposite Fuller. Porter or no Porter, expect GM Ryan Pace to pursue one of this year's top free-agent corners, while also addressing the position in the draft.
If Porter can beat out the competition in training camp and the preseason, then he deserves to start, but the Bears need to make sure he's the best option available.