Bears add 3 safeties to the competition

Updated 5/1/2014 8:49 PM

The Bears added three safeties in free agency to stoke competition at a position that was a glaring weakness last season in pass defense and run support.

Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray have been thrown into the mix with veteran backup Craig Steltz, who was re-signed, and Chris Conte, who has been a starter for the past 2½ seasons but slumped badly last season.


Conte is also coming off shoulder surgery and may not be 100 percent healthy at the start of training camp. First-year player Sean Cattouse is in the equation as well.

The numbers suggest the competition will be spirited, and there is currently not a clear-cut starter at either safety spot.

"It's wide open," said Bears general manager Phil Emery. "That's exactly what I told every one of them when they were signed, 'This is a wide-open competition; best player wins.' "

Mundy has played strong safety and free safety and appeared to be the front-runner to succeed Major Wright, but he's been given no guarantees.

"We're going to find out," Emery said. "That's what OTAs (organized team activities) and summer camp are all about."

Jennings started 26 games at free safety over the past two seasons for the Packers, who did not offer him a contract in the off-season.

Musical linebackers:

Shea McClellin is moving from defensive end to strongside linebacker. Veteran middle linebacker D.J. Williams, 32, was re-signed to another one-year deal after missing 10 games with a chest injury.

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A pair of 2013 draft picks, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, are looking to improve on up-and-down rookie seasons.

"Nobody is going to be given a job," general manager Phil Emery said. "It's a full-on mix. The only person we've told has a (starting) job is Lance Briggs.

"The rest of it is, 'The best player wins.' We're counting on (McClellin) being part of that mix at linebacker and competing for the job."

That could make cause some confusion for all the contenders, who will, at times, line up in different positions. But the long-range benefits are versatility.

"The OTAs are a long way from the season," Emery said. "It's a little bit about experimentation. This is the time. So they'll be split. What they all need to learn is the system and how to line up others and line up themselves. Jon will work back and forth.


"There may be a segment of practices that he's outside, a segment that he's inside. And so will Shea and so will Khaseem. They'll all have opportunities."

School of 'Hard Knocks':

The Bears are one of several teams who could be the focus of the HBO series "Hard Knocks," which allows viewers a behind the scenes look at training camp.

The Bears and GM Phil Emery are less than enamored with the idea. Emery tactfully explained.

"I think we have a great camp," he said. "We have great media. We have fan interest unlike any other city. I think this is the best NFL city in the league, bar none. I think our media is the best in the league, bar none. I think our coverage is outstanding.

"I think our fans love going to camp to find out more about our players. I think there are a number of teams that don't have as much attraction, have as big a base for whatever reasons: their population or their history.

"Obviously, this is a tremendous, historic franchise. I think there will probably be other places that could benefit from it other than the Chicago Bears."

The Bears' GM was asked if he thought the league might push the Bears to star in this year's series, Emery said: "Ultimately, it's the commissioner's decision, and whatever the commissioner decides, we will abide by."

Size matters, maybe:

There will be some subtle and maybe some not-so-subtle changes to the Bears' defense this season, and they could change the way college players are evaluated.

"I said when I came in the door, 'If I had my druthers, bigger would be better,' " GM Phil Emery said. "We're a little bit orientated that way, but we're not going to pass up dynamic players regardless of their size."

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