The Bears have "agreed to terms" with two-time Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather on a one-year contract Sunday, taking a virtually free shot -- a la Roy Williams, Amobi Okoye and Marion Barber -- that a change in scenery will bring out the best in a talented but hit-and-miss player.
Meriweather, a 2007 first-round pick by the Patriots (24th overall), was cut by New England on Saturday.
At best, Meriweather can challenge Major Wright for the starting free-safety job and provide depth at safety if Chris Harris does not return next season. He's played in all 67 of the Patriots' games during his four seasons in New England. His 12 interceptions in the past three seasons are the fourth most by a safety in the NFL in that span.
But Meriweather also comes with some red flags:
-- He is an inconsistent player and gambler who makes big plays but also big mistakes.
-- He was cut by Bill Belichick, who knows more about NFL talent than anybody with the Bears.
-- The Patriots were unable to trade him despite the fact that Meriweather has been named to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
-- As a member of the Miami Hurricanes during the heart of the Nevin Shapiro era, he was suspended for a game for his role in the Miami-Florida International brawl in 2006. He also was involved in an off-campus shooting incident when a teammate was shot in the rear end. He was cleared of any wrongdoing in that case. It was determined he fired in self-defense and the gun was legally registered to him.
More than likely, Meriweather's success with the Bears will be determined on the field. He's a big hitter who takes chances. Last year, he was fined $40,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap that left Heap with a concussion. Meriweather was not ejected for the infraction, but Belichick took him out of the game at that point.
The Bears will have to cut a player from their 53-man roster to make room for Meriweather. Two free safeties, veteran Craig Steltz and rookie Chris Conte, suffered injuries in Thursday night's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Their status has not been determined. With Meriweather, Steltz, Conte, starting strong safety Chris Harris and rookie Winston Venable, the Bears have six safeties.