Need No. 7--Strong safety
Players on roster
SS Kevin Payne (signed through 2010)
S Craig Steltz (2011)
S Glenn Earl (2009)
Make no mistake about it, this is a big season for Payne. Entering the third year of his contract, he has the opportunity to play so well that the Bears will be motivated to talk extension with him at this time next year. If he doesn't play well, the Bears could be exploring new options come 2010. Payne played well at strong safety last season, which is where he started the year before a change was made to benefit departed veteran Mike Brown. Payne had double-digit tackles, including a season-high 15 on Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota--in six of the first 10 games before the move. Payne was out of position at free safety and the idea that the positions are interchangeable is a stretch. There are some durability concerns with him. He missed most of his rookie season with a broken arm that required surgery. He had shoulder surgery after this past season.
Steltz is being promoted as an option at free safety but he doesn't have the range to play that position. He could fit in at strong safety and will likely be Payne's backup. Earl could also figure at free safety but he might be the backup at nickel when training camp opens. The belief is that Payne will regain control of the position and succeed. Free safety is a much more pressing need. But as we wrote about outside linebackers, this is a core position for special teams coordinator Dave Toub and the Bears will always be on the lookout in the later rounds of the draft for players who can contribute.
Who the Bears have been looking at
Most of the possibilities the team has looked at are late-round possibilities or potential undrafted free agents. Oregon State's Al Afalava and Penn State's Anthony Scirrotto came to Halas Hall for pre-draft visits. The club put Ohio's Mike Mitchell through a private workout. He could project as a free safety also. The Bears also put Troy's Sherrod Martin through a private workout and he definitely projects as a free safety. Some clubs are looking at Martin as a cornerback. The Bears are also believed to be interested in New Mexico's Glover Quin and Arizona State's Troy Nolan. They also project as free safeties.
Coming Monday: Defensive tackle.