With the 2017 draft now one month off, decisions are firming and options considered. And the Bears have given themselves interesting options at the No. 3 pick.
Adding quarterbacks (Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez), cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper) and a safety (Quintin Demps) have the immediate effect of filling their most dire of the position needs and reducing the pressure to place need above quality, never a good situation.
Instead the Bears are positioned to stay with their preferred best-available philosophy, with strongest indicators pointing to a defensive player in a draft considered by many to be among the best-ever for defensive backs.
Which remains a need, two needs actually, even with free-agent additions.
The Bears do not have a proven elite-grade cornerback; Cooper is considered ascending, but Amukamara was signed to a one-year deal for a reason, Kyle Fuller missed all last season after ostensibly minor knee surgery, and Tracy Porter turns 31 in August and has just 3 total interceptions through two Bears seasons.
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The 2016 draft had five cornerbacks selected in the first 25 picks, led by Jalen Ramsey to Jacksonville at No. 5. Four went in the 2015 first round but none before Trae Waynes to Minnesota at No. 12. The 2014 class had five in the first 31 picks.
This draft is projected to have starter-quality corners as late as the fourth round but the Bears have those; they don’t have the definitive depth-chart-topper.
And they do not have a ball-hawking free safety, which GM Ryan Pace considers one of the most difficult positions to fill, and of which the 2017 has a couple.
"Obviously, the league has shifted toward passing quite a bit," coach John Fox said during this week’s owners meetings. "I think largely because a lot of the rules of the game for a long time there has been more yards per pass than more yards per rush.
"Because of that, you don’t need in many cases a big, banger box safety. When I was with the New York Giants in the late '90s, my safeties were 6-3, 220. Now [offensive] people are going to no-backs. Obviously, it’s not going to be a run. So you’re covering specialized backs, specialized tight ends. So you have to be more corner-like to play safety, as far as cover ability, range, defending passes way more than runs."
The Bears traded up to invest a Top 10 pick (and the fourth-round selection needed to move up from No. 11 to 9) in a pass rusher with Leonard Floyd. One could be available around No. 3 if edge rushers Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas don't go 1-2.
"I’ve always been of the belief that the best pass defense is the pass rush," Fox said. "There are a lot of different coverages, a lot of different schemes. But at the end of the day, when you’re putting pressure on the quarterback – and not just sacks – but pressing the quarterback puts stress on him to make errors. I think we still need to improve in that area. I think we have improved. But we still need to improve."