The Bears' decision to not splurge on safety Danieal Manning after the 2010 season didn't look so prudent last year.
Whether or not Manning, a good-but-not-great player for the Bears, was worth the big contract, the Bears missed his production and his stability in 2011 after Manning signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Houston Texans.
Manning had started all 16 games at strong safety in 2010. But his replacement, Chris Harris, fell out of favor early in the season and Harris' replacement, Major Wright, couldn't stay healthy. The Bears had nine different safety combinations in 2011. They had one in 2010. (Manning and Harris).
But, as has been the case with just about every facet of the Bears on defense this season, it has all worked out. Wright has been healthy and productive at strong safety -- he had the first of the Bears' seven touchdowns on interception returns. And Chris Conte, who started nine games as a rookie, is making progress as the starting free safety.
Manning has been a productive player for the Texans. He had a 55-yard interception return against the Titans to go with 39 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a fumble recovery. But the Bears have gotten a bigger bang for their buck from Wright. Manning's cap number this season is $4.9 million. Wright's is $660,000. With the Bears' heavily invested in their defensive core, that kind of cost-efficiency is imperative.
Manning, who turned down a contract offer from the Bears in 2010 that he felt was not ''fair value,'' will get his chance to show the Bears what they're missing when the Texans play at Soldier Field on Sunday night. But he's not getting too emotional over the reunion.
''[It's] another opponent that's in our way ... that's how I'm going to look at it,'' Manning told the Houston Chronicle. ''It just so happens that I used to play for this team.''
Then again ...
''All that can change when I get there,'' Manning said. ''I've never experienced this before. Right now, it's not personal. I'm treating them like I did the beginning of the season when we opened with Miami. This is Miami.''