Eddie Jackson

Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Six years ago, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix recruited a three-star wide receiver recruit named Eddie Jackson to play his college ball at Alabama (Jackson, of course, played for Nick Saban as a safety). In March, it was Jackson who was recruiting Clinton-Dix, this time to play for the Bears. 

He did so with a simple message: “It’s just like ‘Bama.”

And from there, “I was ready to sign,” Clinton-Dix said. 

The friendship between Jackson and Clinton-Dix developed in Tuscaloosa and continued after Clinton-Dix became a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. But Clinton-Dix didn’t decide to sign with the Bears — on a cheap one-year prove-it deal — just because of the opportunity to team up with one of his friends. 

Jackson and quarterback Mitch Trubisky chatted with Clinton-Dix on his visit to Halas Hall back in March and offered another critical pitch centered around coach Matt Nagy. 

“I told him coach Nagy is one of those coaches, he lets us be us, go out there and have fun with swag,” Jackson said. “But he knew it. He was like man, I know, I’m a fan of y’all, I’ve been watching. He was on board.”

Jackson and Clinton-Dix combined for 14 interceptions since the beginning of the 2017 season, though Clinton-Dix left the Green Bay Packers via a midseason trade last year with a reputation for missing tackles (for what it’s worth, Clinton-Dix missed one fewer tackle than Adrian Amos did in 2018, per Pro Football Focus). The Bears see Clinton-Dix’s one-year deal as a win-win for all parties: The Bears get a starting safety with proven past production and playoff experience, while Clinton-Dix slides into one of the league’s most talented defenses with an excellent opportunity to rebuild his value on the free agent market in 2020. 

“I always like to focus on the positives guys have,” safeties coach Sean Desai said. “He’s shown that he’s a highly instinctual player, he’s shown that he’s got good ball skills and good range and those are traits that we’re going to develop.” 

Jackson and Amos forged a strong relationship on the back end of the Bears’ defense the last two years, with good communication between the two helping accentuate each player’s strengths. A thought here is replacing Amos with Clinton-Dix will help ease the transition for Jackson, given his friendship with his new safety mate. But there’s more that goes into a good safety pairing than a strong friendship. 

“They gotta build that communication,” Desai said. “It’s different to speak a personal language off the field and then a football language on the field. So that’s what we’re all building.”

Still, a good off-the-field relationship with Jackson got Clinton-Dix in the door at Halas Hall. And the Bears hope it can be an important part of the league’s best defense in 2018 holding on to that title in 2019. 

“I’m just glad to be on the back end with him, man,” Clinton-Dix said. “This is a special defense and I’m glad to be a part of these guys.” 

In Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Bears add more than a friend of Eddie Jackson

In Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Bears add more than a friend of Eddie Jackson

A day after the Bears lost in brutal fashion to the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix posted a photo of his friend and fellow ex-Alabama safety Eddie Jackson to Instagram with a caption that included this line:

“Can’t wait to see you Score on Offense in the years to come.”

Clinton-Dix will get an opportunity to see if Jackson can do that — or just keep scoring touchdowns on defense — up close, at least for 2019. 

The Bears signed Clinton-Dix to a one-year contract on Thursday worth $3.6 million, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Adding Clinton-Dix, who spent all but nine games of his career with the Packers, offers an inexpensive answer to the question facing the Bears after Adrian Amos’ departure to Green Bay. 

Clinton-Dix is a starting-caliber safety who had three interceptions last year, and has 14 in his five-year career. The Packers dealt Clinton-Dix to Washington before last season’s trade deadline, and Washington wanted to keep the 26-year-old former first round pick:

This is the kind of move the Bears’ success in 2018 allowed them to make. Clinton-Dix could’ve teamed up with another former Alabama teammate in Landon Collins in Washington, but the Bears are far closer to the Super Bowl and have a widely-respected culture. Slot corner Buster Skrine, who arrived at Halas Hall on Thursday as Clinton-Dix was visiting, said he and his new teammate talked about how excited they were to come to the Bears. 

“We chopped it up a little bit,” Skrine said. “He feels the same way — He feels the (culture) is good and we're all just happy to be able to come here and play together.”

Said Skrine of Clinton-Dix, too: “I know he's a playmaker, that's one thing he does. He's got a lot of interceptions and he's not scared to hit anybody. Having a guy like that, he came from Alabama, one of the best college systems in college football and then carrying it over to the NFL as a playmaker, it's going to be awesome having him in the back end with me.”

Clinton-Dix fits next to Jackson in a number of ways beyond the strong relationship between the two safeties.

First, from a cost perspective, a one-year deal for a veteran makes sense given the Bears’ current and future budgets. The Bears don’t have much cap space with which to work right now, and Jackson will be a due a rich extension some time before or after the 2020 season. Committing to one year of Clinton-Dix could allow the Bears to draft a safety to potentially be a cheap, long-term replacement (and the Bears found their prior safety pairing, Jackson and Amos, in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively). And if Clinton-Dix doesn’t work out, the Bears aren’t on the hook for anything beyond 2019. 

Second, Jackson and Clinton-Dix are playmakers, the kind of guys who should fit well together in Chuck Pagano’s aggressive scheme. Clinton-Dix, for what it’s worth, had the highest Pro Football Focus grade (79.3) in 2018, and missed fewer tackles (eight), than Amos did last year (nine). That’s not to say Clinton-Dix is better than Amos, but it’s something worth noting here. Clinton-Dix, too, has never missed a game in his career. He also made a critical play in Week 1 to prevent the Bears from getting a first down that helped spark the Packers' comeback

And third, Clinton-Dix is someone next to whom Jackson should be comfortable playing. There is a legitimate friendship between the two, dating back to when Clinton-Dix hosted Jackson on his recruiting visit to Alabama. Jackson spoke of his admiration for Clinton-Dix all the way back during training camp in 2017, too:

“Ha Ha is one of those guys, he’s going to keep pushing,” Jackson said. “He’s going to stay on top of you. but he’s going to do it from a brotherly standpoint, not a coach standpoint.”

And Jackson, on Thursday afternoon, certainly seemed happy about the guy he’ll be playing with in 2019:

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Bears fill need in secondary by signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Bears fill need in secondary by signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

The Bears just ensured their secondary will be no laughing matter for opposing quarterbacks in 2019.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports the Bears are signing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a 1-year deal:

Clinton-Dix will reportedly make $3.5 million and gave the Bears a discount to join the reigning No. 1 defense:

Clinton-Dix already has a rapport with incumbent Bears safety Eddie Jackson, as the former hosted the latter in college when Jackson made his official visit to Alabama.

The Bears hosted Clinton-Dix in Chicago Wednesday night and Thursday morning and apparently the meeting was a good one if both sides came to an agreement. 

The move solidifies the Bears' secondary, with Clinton-Dix conceivably filling the hole left by Adrian Amos, who left for greener pastures — literally — when he signed with the Green Bay Packers earlier this week.

The deal also excited the other new member of the Bears secondary as Buster Skrine told reporters Thursday afternoon it will be "awesome" to have Clinton-Dix around:

Clinton-Dix, 26, is a former first-round pick (21st overall) and has played 80 games in his career with the Packers and Washington Redskins.

The Bears secondary will now consist of:

CB - Kyle Fuller
CB - Prince Amukamara
S - Eddie Jackson
S - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
NB - Buster Skrine

Both Fuller and Jackson were Pro Bowlers and First-Team All-Pro in 2018.

Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl in 2016 when he set a career high with 5 interceptions and 7 passes defensed in the Packers secondary.

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