Every day this week, BearReport.com will take a closer look at the free agent market and highlight some possible targets for the Bears in the offseason. Today we focus on Dallas safety Ken Hamlin ...
The skinny: Originally a second-round pick out of Arkansas by the Seahawks in the 2003 NFL Draft, Ken Hamlin signed a one-year deal with Dallas in `07 after four solid seasons in Seattle. Roy Williams is the Cowboys safety who's been to five straight Pro Bowls and gets all the acclaim, but it was Hamlin who helped solidify the pass defense in "Big D" with 62 tackles and five interceptions. While Jerry Jones would probably like to sign him to an extension and keep the majority of his 13-3 ballclub intact, Hamlin should draw a lot of interest around the league and is arguably the top safety available in free agency.
The numbers: Hamlin has 13 career interceptions in five NFL seasons, and he registered 98, 80, and 96 tackles in Seattle the three years he was able to suit up in all 16 contests – he missed 10 games in 2005 after a head injury he sustained in a late-night altercation outside a nightclub. The Cowboys were only 24th in the league defending the pass in 2006, but they jumped all the way to 13th this season with Williams spending more time near the line of scrimmage and Hamlin patrolling the middle of the field.
S Ken Hamlin
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The pros: Has a lot of postseason experience both with Dallas and Seattle. Knocked down at least one pass in each of the last nine games in 2007, setting career high with 16 passes defensed. A fierce hitter who can intimidate receivers over the middle, earning his nickname "The Hammer" and deservedly so. Just shy of his 27th birthday and should be at his physical prime for the length of any contract he signs. Aside from the off-the-field mess back in `05, he's been quite durable and played every game in four of five seasons.
The cons: Because he loves to lay the lumber, he can be a sloppy tackler at times and doesn't always wrap up properly. He has pretty good range and recovery speed, but he's not especially good in coverage. And while he may get paid like an elite talent because there's not much available at his position in free agency, he's just a serviceable player and isn't going to the Pro Bowl any time soon.
The odds: Respectable. If the Bears want to get back to championship-caliber defense in 2008, they have to get both safety positions in order because there have been big problems there for quite some time. Like every year, everything hinges on Mike Brown's ability to stay healthy because he's such a difference-maker when he's back there, but the Bears need to take a lesson from the Chicago Cubs and employ a Prior-and-Wood approach to Brown next season – don't count on him at all and consider it a bonus if you get anything. The Adam Archuleta experiment was an unmitigated disaster on every level, and Danieal Manning is still more pure athlete than football player. Brandon McGowan proved in `07 that he can play a little bit, and the return of Kevin Payne will provide even more competition in training camp. But if GM Jerry Angelo can't secure someone like Hamlin in free agency, he has to land a stud like Kenny Phillips from Miami in the draft.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.