Mike Brown was voted to Hawaii in 2005 and even made an All-Pro team back in '01, but to intimate he's still playing to the level that Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, and Brian Dawkins are would be irresponsible. Brown will surely go down as one of the greatest warriors in franchise history and has scored more defensive touchdowns (7) than any Bear to put on a uniform, but he hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2003 and again dealt with nagging lower-leg injuries this past season. While his leadership is second to none in the huddle, he's just not a difference-maker anymore and may have seen his tenure in the Windy City come to a close.
Kevin Payne was hit-and-miss during his first season as a starter and Danieal Manning appears to have found a home as a nickel back, but the safeties were once again ravaged by injuries and a disappointment overall.
Inside the Numbers
Former head coach and Chicago legend Mike Ditka always reminds us that the past is for cowards and losers, so it's time to turn the page on Brown since his contract expired after this season and he's not what he once was. Payne would benefit from a permanent move to strong safety since he's deficient in terms of coverage skills, but switching Manning back to free safety might be unwise since he made yet another catastrophic mental error in the finale against Houston – allowing Andre Johnson to fun free like that was eerily reminiscent of the Reggie Wayne touchdown he allowed in Super Bowl XLI. McGowan might not be back since he's an unrestricted free agent for the first time, and Steltz doesn't inspire a lot of optimism going forward.
Spending major money in free agency for a big name like Oshiomogho Atogwe or Jermaine Phillips might be necessary, especially considering it's not a great draft for safeties this year – not with Taylor Mays of USC going back to school.
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.
Year in Review: Safeties
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