Are the Bears still shopping?
You would think that Bears GM Jerry Angelo would be satisfied after the first day of free agency when Chicago made a huge splash, bringing in DE Julius Peppers, RB Chester Taylor and TE Bradonon Manamaluena — opening their wallets in a big way.
But are the Bears done with free agency?
Today in the Chicago Tribune, Dan Pompei floated the idea of the Bears looking at the safety market — the free safety market — when he discussed the possibility of Chicago going after Rams RFA safety O.J. Atogwe. Atogwe is a playmaking safety who was given a low tender by St. Louis. The Rams would have until June 1 to match an offer sheet. According to Pompei, the Rams would then have to pay him $7 million for next season or lose his rights.
A strong play, right?
Looking at Lovie’s Smith defense and the Tampa 2 scheme, there’s still a void after the Peppers deal. While the NFP was in Indianapolis at the combine, Lovie was eagerly saying that the Bears would look to upgrade the position, and when you look at a player like Atogwe, Pompei is dead-on in his speculation.
Atogwe has 19 career INTs in five seasons, along with 14 forced fumbles — a huge number for the safety position.
Peppers was brought in to rush the passer in the Bears’ four-man front when Lovie plays his Cover 2 schemes, but when you look at the Chicago roster, there is no true free safety — a player who can drive down from the numbers on top of the deep inside breaking routes that are synonymous with offensive schemes trying to beat Cover 2 or the deep 7-routes.
Plus, we have to realize that as often as we talk about Cover 2 with Lovie, the Bears do play their share of Cover 1 and are using the zone blitz increasingly more in their game plan on Sundays. Atogwe could be that player who can get over the top of wide receivers when they stretch the field outside the numbers.
But the big plays are why the Bears can look at the free safety position. Lovie talked about turnover ratio in Indy, and if you follow the Cover 2 defenses throughout the league, turnovers are king in this business.
Another option for Chicago could be Steelers FS Ryan Clark, a dependable player who tackles well in the open field, rarely makes mistakes and has developed into one of the best hitters in the NFL. Clark did not come to an agreement with Pittsburgh and is now an UFA — free to sign with anyone. And, we can’t forget about the Saints Darren Sharper. He will most likely resign in New Orleans, but could be worth a look.
Don’t be surprised to see Angelo and Lovie continue to add to their roster. As we talked about when Peppers came to town, this is a franchise that’s upgrading its roster in a major way to make a run at the NFC North title.
And Lovie’s defense still has holes to fill.
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