The Chicago Bears went into last off-season searching for a competent veteran cornerback to pair with youngster Kyle Fuller in the starting lineup. To that end, GM Ryan Pace signed Alan Ball to a one-year contract worth $3 million.
The size of the contract indicated immediately the Bears' belief that Ball could be a 16-game starter.
It was a somewhat head-scratching decision, as Ball had only been a full-time starter twice during his eight previous season. He was also coming off a biceps tear that cost him nine games in 2014.
Ball struggled with a foot injury during most of the off-season and training camp but when the regular season opened, the coaching staff inserted the club's big free-agent acquisition into the starting lineup.
He immediately went out and served up two touchdowns to Packers receiver James Jones in the regular season opener, then was torched by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald to the tune of 8 catches for 112 yards and 3 TDs in Week 2.
Ball showed very little anticipation, field vision or awareness in man coverage, and was slow to react to balls in the air. His inability to turn and find the ball was maddening to Bears fans.
Through three starts, Ball was targeted 17 times, allowing 14 completions. Opposing quarterbacks had a 150.0 QB rating when throwing at him, which is horrendous.
As a result, Ball was benched in favor of Tracy Porter by Week 4 and served as the secondary's dime back the rest of the season, which equated to about 4-6 snaps per game.
There are positives about Ball, including his size (6-2, 195) and his nine years of experience in the NFL, so is he worth re-signing to a veteran minimum contract this off-season?
No. Ball is a journeyman corner who has struggled throughout his career. He essentially stole $3 million from the Bears last season, offering very little in return for the team's investment.
He's not a horrible player but he'll turn 31 in March, so he's not going to develop any further. Even at a severely reduced price, he's not worth the investment.
The Bears need to part ways with last year's mistake and find a younger, cheaper cornerback, potentially early in this year's draft, to pair with Fuller going forward.