In an interview with ESPN1000 in Chicago on Thursday, Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery stated that the safety position was still “wide open” and that the future starters would be chosen from players already on the roster. This means that there will be no more free agents brought in, but instead the players will decide who will get the nod based on their performance in training camp this summer. After the horrendous defensive showing last season, fans everywhere were hoping for more of a splash this offseason when it came to the safety position; instead what they received was more of a slight ripple.
Although Emery says the position is wide open, I’m sure the team did not trade up in the fourth round to select Brock Vereen just so he can compete for a spot on the field. While just being drafted does not assure him a spot on the field, it should at least afford him a leg up on the competition. Coming out of the University of Minnesota, Vereen can play just about anywhere in the defensive backfield, having started at both safety and cornerback for the Gophers.
So for the sake of argument, I’ll slot Vereen in the strong safety position heading into training camp. This leaves Chris Conte, Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Craig Steltz to battle it out for the right to play free safety. Although Conte is coming off a year in which he drew the ire of most Bears fans for his subpar performance, his experience should keep him in the starter spot for now. Mundy and Jennings combined for one interception last season and are on the roster to provide depth at the position for the Bears in the event of an injury.
Although Conte is currently recovering from a shoulder surgery, he should be back for the start of the regular season. Even being out with his recovery, Conte has 40 career starts in a Bears uniform. He may have made more than his fair share of mistakes last season, but he still added 90 tackles and three interceptions. With a refurbished front seven that should be able to get consistent pressure on the QB, a good amount of pressure will be taken off whomever starts at safety this season. For now I’ll side with the guy with experience and more production, even if he struggled on one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL last season.