2021 Bears position needs: Free agent, draft options at cornerback

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller plays against the Jaguars on Dec. 27, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. Fuller's name has been brought up in talk of a blockbuster QB trade, but he's one of the best defenders on the team.

    Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller plays against the Jaguars on Dec. 27, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. Fuller's name has been brought up in talk of a blockbuster QB trade, but he's one of the best defenders on the team. Associated Press

 
By Sean Hammond
shammond@shawmedia.com
Updated 2/21/2021 5:54 PM

Cornerback feels pretty solid for the Bears. Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson are a great combination in the starting lineup. If anything, they simply need depth behind those two.

Here's where the Bears stand at cornerback:

 

2021 roster

Fuller and Johnson should be the starting corners, barring either's involvement in a trade. Buster Skrine is under contract for one more season, but is a likely candidate to be cut for cap space. Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor remain under contract for multiple seasons. The Bears signed Xavier Crawford to a futures contract. Tre Roberson, who missed the season with an injury, is still under contract in 2021.

Pending free agents

Safety/cornerback Sherrick McManis is a free agent. Cornerback Artie Burns, who tore his ACL in training camp, is as well. Michael Joseph, who spent the season on injured reserve, is an exclusive rights free agent.

Internal options

The Bears have a lot of pieces in place already on the roster. If they make a blockbuster trade for a quarterback, Fuller's name will be discussed. But he's also one of the best defenders on the team and it would be hard for the Bears to part ways with him. Johnson is another young cornerback who teams might seek in a trade. Outside of any surprise trades, though, they should both be in the starting lineup.

Skrine served as the nickelback before a concussion on Dec. 6 ended his season. The Bears likely cut Skrine for cap space and roll with Shelley as the nickelback, who took on the role in Skrine's absence. Vildor saw some time as a rookie and is only going to improve. Roberson, who had success with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, remains an intriguing player. McManis, who is 33, is probably on his way out.

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Available free agents

The Bears aren't going to spend big on the likes of Patrick Peterson, A.J. Bouye or Richard Sherman.

If anything, they would probably target a cheap backup who can contribute to special teams to fill a void left by Skrine and McManis. Someone in the mold of Jacksonville's Sidney Jones, who played a high number of special teams snaps. Carolina's Corn Elder, Denver's De'Vante Bausby and Las Vegas' Daryl Worley could fill a similar role, though the Bears aren't going to be willing to spend much.

Draft availability

The draft might be a more likely avenue to find a backup, albeit maybe a low priority. After taking Johnson with a second-round pick and Vildor in the fifth round in 2020, investing in another cornerback early in the draft wouldn't make a ton of sense in 2021.

Mid- to late-round options include Oregon's Deommodore Lenoir, LSU's Kary Vincent Jr., South Carolina's Israel Mukuamu, California's Camryn Bynum and Oklahoma State's Rodarius Williams.

Best guess

The Bears cut Skrine and let McManis walk. The key players in their 2021 cornerback rotation are probably the ones already on the roster. They potentially draft another cornerback in the sixth or seventh round or pass and try to find additional depth via undrafted free agents.

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