The Bears still have three cornerbacks who are eligible to become free agents on March 11, including two-time Pro Bowler Charles Tillman, but they re-signed nine-year veteran Kelvin Hayden Friday.
Hayden, 30, entered last year's training camp as the Bears' No. 1 nickel corner, but he suffered a season-ending torn hamstring Aug. 3. Hayden was the first of several key defensive players whose injury contributed to one of the worst defensive seasons in Bears history.
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Now the Chicago native and Hubbard High School graduate, who also played at Joliet Junior College and the University of Illinois, has a second chance with the Bears after signing a one-year deal for $840,000.
"My season didn't end the way I wanted it to," Hayden said in a report on the Bears' website. "For everybody around here it didn't end the way that any of us expected it to. But for me personally, as a player you just don't want to go out that way. I'm looking at this as unfinished business.
"It was very frustrating because I put so much work into the off-season, and I was actually seeing that the work was paying off in the early part of training camp."
The 6-foot, 195-pound Hayden played in all 16 games for the Bears in 2012, winning the nickelback job from D.J. Moore midway through the season, in part because of his physical play against the run. Hayden started two games in 2012 and tied for the NFL lead with 4 fumble recoveries.
Hayden was originally drafted in the second round by the Colts in 2005 and played six years in Indianapolis before one season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. While with the Colts, he returned a Rex Grossman interception 56 yards for a touchdown to help them defeat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Hayden started 46 games for the Colts and had 9 of his 12 career interceptions for them. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
The Bears re-signed cornerback Tim Jennings on Jan. 2, but cornerbacks Tillman, Zack Bowman and Sherrick McManis could all leave via free agency, in addition to safeties Craig Steltz, Major Wright and Anthony Walters.
But Hayden appears hungry to return.
"I'm starving," he said. "It was tough from Day One watching the first preseason game to the last game against Green Bay. The season left a bitter taste, and it's been my motivation ever since I got injured. I'm just ready to bounce back."
Since late December, the Bears have re-signed quarterback Jay Cutler, guard Matt Slauson, kicker Robbie Gould, center Roberto Garza, tight end Dane Rosario and fullback Tony Fiammetta, in addition to Hayden and Jennings.
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