Bears Safety Signings Leave Much To Be Desired
By Adam Benovic
Last season, the Bears’ defense was lackluster. The defensive front couldn’t stop the run and, as a result, the secondary struggled to control the opposing passing attacks. Chicago’s safeties were notably abysmal, even for a team that has consistently had rather weak safety play through numerous years. Chris Conte’s blown play at the end of the Green Bay game costing the Bears a playoff berth was only another incident in a list of many. Safety just is not a position that the Bears value tremendously.
For proof, you don’t have to look farther than the Bears’ free agent signings. Despite having such a weak safety tandem in a division dominated by heavy passing attacks, GM Phil Emery chose to pursue the Giants’ Ryan Mundy and the Packers’ M.D. Jennings, some bargain players that, unfortunately, do not add much more value than was already on the roster.
Mundy was a 6th round pick in the 2008 draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Throughout the years he would cultivate a reputation as a player who, while not the most skilled, worked harder than everyone else. While he had some spot roles on the defense, through most of his seasons he was a special teams player. He was able to carve himself a spot in that role until 2013 when he signed with the Giants.
In New York, Mundy had a chance at the starting safety role where he showed that he is a capable but not spectacular starter. Despite nine decent starts, the Giants chose to promote Will Hill over Mundy. The Giants showed that they were not confident in his abilities as a starting safety by benching him. They chose instead to go to the younger, more inexperienced player.
M.D. Jennings, the other safety the Bears signed, inspires just as much confidence that the Mundy signing does. Jennings was an undrafted free agent out of the 2011 draft where he was considered to be an instinctive player with good ball skills. Despite that, he is a smaller safety who doesn’t have that hit potential that most teams are looking for at the position. As a result, Jennings played a good portion of his snaps as a special teamer where he was largely considered to be a leader on the unit.
Unfortunately, his starting experience is punctuated by poor play. The main reason that many non-Packers fans know about Jennings is his involvement in the “Fail Mary” play against the Seahawks in 2012. No matter the result, his reputation is that of giving up big plays.
Even looking at Packers’ fans reactions to the signing, they were happy that the Bears signed him away. When your old team is happy to see you go to a rival, there are issues there.
These signings don’t inspire much confidence in the safety position for the Bears. Emery went out to replace his safeties with back-up talent at best. While Emery stated that the front office would look at adding other options at safety throughout the offseason, the current cast of safeties leaves something to be desired. With numerous top tier safeties on the market this year, Emery could have made a splash with a proven player like TJ Ward or Donte Whitner. Instead, the Bears are left with little more than they already had.