In 2012, the Chicago Bears traded fullback Tyler Clutts to the Houston Texans in exchange for cornerback Sherrick McManis.
A fifth-round pick out of Northwestern, McManis was coming off his second season in Houston, where he had established himself as a quality special teams player. He had never started an NFL game at cornerback, so he was purely a special teams acquisition.
Yet McManis showed substantial improvement in training camp the last two years as a cornerback on defense. He played so well in Bourbonnais last year that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gave McManis, who had started just one career game his previous five seasons, a shot at the club's top nickelback spot.
McManis ran away with the gig and opened the regular season in his new defensive role.
Unfortunately for McManis and the Bears, the experiment failed. He started six games in 2015 and gave up five touchdowns, while opposing QBs had 147.6 rating against him, which is horrible.
As a result, he was benched following the bye week.
The problem with McManis at nickel is that he has the body of a boundary corner (6-1, 197) and doesn't possess the requisite quickness to cover receivers out of the slot. He was slow to react to balls in the air and lacked awareness and instincts in both man and zone sets.
While he struggled as a defender, McManis was predictably solid as a gunner and coverage player on spcial teams. He led the team with 17 special teams tackles (per coach's film review) last year, which following a second-place showing in 2014 (13 ST tackles).
He's consistently one of the first players down the field in both punt and kickoff coverage, and is one of the team leaders in Chicago's third phase.
McManis becomes a free agent on March 9, which will be his first chance to test the open market. Should the Bears attempt to re-sign the veteran?
Yes. While he has the physical tools to succeed on defense, he showed this year his severe deficiencies as a secondary player. In reality, he's no more than a good special teams ace. He knows that, as does the rest of the league, so it's highly unlikely any team will sign him to a big contract with the promise of playing time on defense.
His role is on special teams, so he'll be available for close to the veteran minimum. For a player who adds so much value on special teams, that's a price worth paying.
The Bears have been in the bottom half of the NFL in special teams each year since Dave Toub left in 2013. They allowed four return touchdowns last year, so letting go of the best gunner would only set the unit back. McManis' leadership and experience has value, which the team needs going forward.