Biggs: Bears shufflin' safety crew again

No one can say what free agency and the draft will bring the Chicago Bears in the way of help in the secondary. But for now, the team has shifted Danieal Manning to strong safety in an ongoing effort to find a place the second-round draft pick from 2006 can settle in.

What else is new? The Bears are constantly shuffling their defensive backfield. At least this move comes well before the start of the offseason program. A year ago, Manning spent the entire offseason working as the nickel back. The week before the team reported to training camp, coach Lovie Smith announced that Manning would be the team’s starting free safety.

That has been one of the issues that has plagued the team. The coaching staff has been forced to deal with injuries at safety over the last six seasons, but it’s also created problems for itself with misevaluations and the problems have been compounded by indecision. Since Smith took over in 2004, the Bears have changed starting free safeties 21 times and starting strong safeties 20 times.

Free safety is at the top of the club’s offseason wish list. It’s believed the Bears will target Antrel Rolle in free agency. If they had to line up and play today, Craig Steltz would be at free safety and Manning would be checking out his new digs at strong safety. Manning is the most athletic player in the secondary, maybe on the roster, but he’s consistently failed to remain at the position.

Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports the latest development. Manning, a restricted free agent, will be tendered at the low level of $1.176 million. That means the Bears would be entitled to only a third-round pick if another team tried to sign Manning away.

The Bears are also expected to tender Josh Bullocks, a free safety. There’s plenty of competition but at some point the team needs to bring some competition that isn’t just another late-round draft pick.

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