There are no points for trying, but Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace sought to improve the a porous secondary in 2017 by going after players at the top of the market.
Most notably, Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye, who were the best free agent cornerbacks on the market. Also notable was the fact that both rejected the Bears’ advances and signed with playoff teams. Talk about a double whammy.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that the Bears felt they were close to signing Gilmore as a free agent in March and wonders if this time around they will make a play for his teammate Malcolm Butler. It’s not as if the Bears won’t need help at the position at some point. Both of their top cornerbacks are free agents and their top returning corner plays primarily in the slot.
Butler is a solid corner who has been a three-year starter for New England and hasn’t missed a game in the last three seasons. He has come up with eight interceptions since taking his spot in the starting lineup, but is still known for his game-changing goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks.
You know the one:
Durable, productive, and a playmaker … where do we sign up?
Here’s the catch. Two NFL front office employees aren’t as high on Butler as they are some of the other corners on the market, both of whom ranked Butler third behind the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson and Bears’ very own Kyle Fuller. So for the second straight year, the top of the cornerback free agent class looks to loaded, and the Bears are expected to be players in the market.
This will mark the third straight offseason in which the Bears have targeted a top free agent cornerback. Prior to missing out on Gilmore and Bouye in 2017, the team was also unable to reel in Janoris Jenkins when he was on the team’s radar in 2016. Jenkins ultimately signed with the New York Giants.
If this trend continues, the Bears will be once again competing at the top of free agency to shore up their secondary. With as much cap flexibility as the Bears project to have and more stability in the front office and coaching staff, their efforts could be more successful this time around.