CONTRACT IMPACT: Low (3): Mike Green is the only starter hitting free agency, albeit as a restricted one. There isn't a ton of money invested in the secondary, but a new deal for Mike Brown looms on the horizon. Depth players like Larry Whigham and Reggie Austin are heading for free agency this season as well.
SUMMARY OF NEED: Low to medium (5): Unless Green or Gray step up, the Bears will need to find some help at strong safety. They could also use another cornerback to back up the starters, in addition to Williams.
RESOURCES: Free agent cornerbacks can be cost prohibitive, while safeties tend to come cheaply. This means it would be easiest to add a corner in the middle rounds of the draft, unless someone special falls to them early. If the Bears decide to look outside the roster for help at safety, free agency usually offers a buyer's market because of the position's relatively low cost.
SUSPECTS: A recent trend in the NFL is more 3, 4 and 5 wide receiver sets. To counter this, the trend is to load up on quality defensive backs.
The Eagles drafted a defensive back with 3 of their first 4 picks last season, despite having one of the best secondaries in the game. The consequence? The Eagles were on the verge of the Super Bowl, and didn't miss a beat even though they lost their first and second string quarterbacks down the stretch.
There will be a top cornerback available to draft with the first pick in Terrence Newman, but the Bears should be able to find quality at the position through the first 3 rounds, and possibly into the top of the fourth round. There have also been rumors of the Bears considering swapping first round picks with the Washington Redskins, which would drop them from fourth to 13th, in exchange for CB Fred Smoot.
The free agent class at safety can be appealing, especially because the position is one of the lowest-paid on the field. Among the many safeties hitting free agency is former Bear draft pick Rashard Cook.