The Bears have kicked the tires of two veteran cornerbacks now and both have signed elsewhere after news this morning out of Cleveland that Rod Hood is expected to sign with the Browns.
Prior to the draft, the club brought in Ken Lucas after he was cut loose in Carolina. Eventually, he returned to his former home in Seattle.
From the looks of things the Bears at least investigated Hood, who looked like a fit as a veteran with plenty of starting experience and good size at 5-11, 198 pounds, because Corey Graham is being shifted to free safety. Hood could have instantly provided an insurance policy as a No. 3 cornerback and worked behind Danieal Manning as the nickel back at a position where there is no such thing as too much insurance.
It will be interesting to see if the Bears continue to take a look at the market for available corners because while their depth chart shows plenty of bodies at the position, there are some legitimate health concerns with half of the bunch. We'll elaborate shortly. Ex-Bear Ricky Manning Jr. remains on the open market. While picking up his game tickets at a Tampa hotel days prior to the Super Bowl, Manning said he would not rule out a return to the Bears, and despite a rocky ending with the Bears, he left on classy terms. That seems unlikely. Chris McAlister is on the street. He is still rehabbing a knee injury and although reports indicate he'll be cleared for a return to football activities by late June, is he someone a team could count on going into the season? Bringing in someone with injury issues to back players with injury issues might just clutter the training room. McAlister also had run-ins last season with Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Aaron Glenn, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, Ty Law and another ex-Bear, R.W. McQuarters, are some other corners with high mileage that are available.
Maybe none of them are tempting. Maybe there is one out there the Bears will take a good look at. As we wrote last week, just remember back to Chris Thompson vs. Steve Smith in the 2005 playoff loss to Carolina for a refresher on what a thinned out depth chart at cornerback can look like on a bad day. Some have blamed the last-second loss at Atlanta in 2008, at least partially, on Marcus Hamilton's poor play covering Michael Jenkins. Wherever you want to lay the blame--and in this case there were plenty of choices--the Bears were dealing with inexperienced cornerback play.
Here is how the depth chart stacks up right now:
LCB Charles Tillman. Has yet to be cleared for a return to the field after offseason shoulder surgery, the second shoulder surgery he has undergone in four years.
RCB Nathan Vasher. Groin and hand injuries have kept him off the field for 20 games over the last two seasons. General manager Jerry Angelo is confident Vasher is poised for a bounce-back season but his recent injury history at minimum provides cause for concern.
CB Zack Bowman. Fell in the 2008 draft to the fifth round because of his injury history. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in school and then had a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. Bowman made some big plays in the lone game he appeared in last season vs. Minnesota but suffered a ruptured biceps tendon and was lost for the season.
CB Trumaine McBride. Like Tillman, he remains sidelined as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. McBride, who started half the season in 2007 when injuries struck, was relegated to a special teams role last season.
CB D.J. Moore. The fourth-round pick from Vanderbilt doesn't come with injury concern but he's listed at 5-8 and that might be fudged by an inch. Scouts say he plays tall for his size but he might need to play on stilts if he finds himself in coverage against, say, Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
CB Marcus Hamilton. Will probably have to make the team as a special teams contributor.
CB Rudy Burgess. Doesn't have any NFL experience and was moved to corner after joining the practice squad as a wide receiver last season.
CB Woodny Turenne. Undrafted college free agent made some plays in the OTA last Wednesday but has an uphill battle.
So the Bears have injury concerns to a varying degree with each of their top four cornerbacks. Tillman has not missed much time during the season but now that he's had a second shoulder reconstruction, he'll be watched. Vasher is really the key to the position. If he can regain prior form and remain healthy, something that wasn't an issue prior to his contract extension two years ago, the position should be a strength of the defense. If injuries crop up--and the Bears will not be able to call them a surprise--musical chairs could happen. Graham could always be switched back to cornerback but Lovie Smith's stated goal is to find a way to get his best athletes on the field in the secondary. The Bears don't want to start shifting him all over, one of the mistakes that was made with Danieal Manning. Stay tuned to see if the club takes a look at another cornerback now that Hood is off the market.