In 2011, Chicago Bears cornerback D.J. Moore led the team in interceptions, despite playing limited snaps as the nickelback. In fact, during his four years with the Bears, Moore has always been a consistent presence in the slot.
He also likes to talk.
Moore has always been one of the most media-friendly members on the club, always willing to provide a quick quote to a reporter in need. So, when asked about Jay Cutler's sideline push of J'Marcus Webb following the Week 2 contest this year, Moore gave his usual honest answer.
"I don't think you can act like that," he said. "To make it seem like it's just my fault or what not, I think it's just wrong. Honestly, I would feel some kind of way if he was to do me like that, to make it seem like, ‘Well, the reason I'm having a bad game is because is what you're doing and not about me taking accountability for myself because I'm throwing these type of passes and doing these type of reads.' It's a tough situation.
CB D.J. Moore
"I didn't know it really happened until I looked on TV, and it kind of made you feel a certain way a little bit. But he is what he is. He's always been that way so I wouldn't expect him to change."
Later that afternoon, Lovie Smith pulled Moore into his office to reprimand him for talking bad about a teammate publicly. Moore then turned around and told a reporter than Smith had just chewed him out. And that was all it took for Moore to land squarely in Smith's doghouse.
Moore averaged 563 snaps per season in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, that number dropped to 368. Things got so bad, he was actually a healthy scratch in four games this year, with Kelvin Hayden taking over as the starting nickelback. In the season finale, Moore played just two snaps.
Had Smith not been fired, it would be safe to assume that Moore, who is set to become a free agent on March 12, would be looking for work elsewhere. Yet Smith is no longer in charge, so that strained relationship shouldn't be a factor going forward.
The fact remains that Moore is a very good NFL nickelback. He has quickness to cover slot receivers, he's tough at the line of scrimmage, he's opportunistic and he's a wiling tackler. On top of that, Pro Football Focus has annually grades him as one of the most effective secondary blitzers in the league.
After Moore was buried on the depth chart, Chicago's overall effectiveness in the secondary dropped off in the second half of 2012. Hayden does not possess the same burst and anticipation, and he was beaten repeatedly out of the slot.
Moore's relationship with Smith may be tough for him to overlook, despite the fact Lovie's no longer with the team. Because of that, he'll likely want to test free agency, where a quality No. 3 corner could receive a nice pay day.
Yet there's no reason the Bears should let him walk. Trestman and GM Phil Emery should do everything they can to convince Moore that Chicago is still his home. Because, when you think about it, Moore did nothing else wrong besides call out the team's selfish quarterback. On the field, he's the picture of consistency, racking up 10 interceptions in three years at nickel. He complements Chicago's two All-Pro cornerbacks, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, very well.
If they can re-sign Moore, who is only 25, then cornerback isn't a priority in free agency and the draft, allowing the club to address other, more-pressing needs this offseason.
Conclusion: Hold ‘em
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.