It’s official. Eddie Jackson will have a new safety partner in 2019.
Despite an earlier tease to the contrary, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is signing with the Dallas Cowboys, his agency announced via a tweet late Thursday. Terms of the contract were not initially disclosed, but Jane Slater of the NFL Network chimed in to report it is expected to be a one-year deal worth $4.5 million and includes $2.5 million guaranteed.
Clinton-Dix’s departure leaves the Bears in search of a safety, but that was presumed to be case when he signed a one-year “prove it” deal with Chicago last offseason. And while Clinton-Dix teased a possible return, it never seemed logistically plausible to make it happen. Not after the Bears made Jackson the league’s highest-paid safety earlier in the offseason. Because while Clinton-Dix was a solid contributor (his 74.2 PFF grade was 19th best among safeties and tops at the position among Bears) in his lone season in Chicago, the long-term fit wasn’t a sensible one because both he and Jackson are both at their best when playing free safety. Though, at that price, I’m curious if the Bears considered giving this tandem one more shot, but with Clinton-Dix in the box and Jackson roaming free.
In any case, Clinton-Dix’s next shot will be in Dallas, where for the third time in as many years, he is playing for a high-profile NFL franchise while playing to re-establish his value in the open market. Clinton-Dix turned just 27 in December, so he still has another opportunity (or two) to cash in on a multi-year deal. But time is running out for him to earn that elusive big-money contract.
What’s next for the Bears should be a further dive into the free agent market for a stop-gap option. Their ideal target is a capable safety who could slide into a traditional in-the-box strong safety role and conceivably fit in tandem with Jackson, who figures to return to his perch at the top of the defense in the free safety role. That’s not asking for too much … is it?
Thankfully, the market is still deep, and Vonn Bell, Eric Reid, and Tony Jefferson are among the most intriguing un-signed free agents.
Reid and Jefferson should be the most appealing to Chicago’s front office, if only because signing either – as cuts – would not count against the compensatory draft pick formula. As of now, the Bears are projected to receive four (slightly improved) 2021 compensatory draft picks in 2021 with the addition of Dix to the mix of outgoing free agents. However, that could change depending on if Chicago signs qualified free agents whose contracts would cancel out compensatory picks that would otherwise be coming the Bears’ way.
Another option the Bears could explore is re-signing Deon Bush to play along side Jackson in 2020. Bush was a fourth-round pick in 2016 and has stepped in as a spot starter, but does not have extensive experience. Because Bush has familiarity within the system and isn’t expected to command a contract that breaks the bank, bringing him back as a possible bridge until a possible long-term option presents itself wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Frankly, though, players should be lining up around the block to play next to Jackson in 2020.