Bears have decisions to make at CB, beginning with Kyle Fuller

The Chicago Bears' most pressing offseason need on defense is at cornerback, where both of last year's starters, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Chicago can attempt to re-sign one or both of the veteran defensive backs, but in Fuller's case, particularly, the asking price is expected to be high.

Fuller, the Bears' 2014 first-round draft pick, looked all but done in Chicago before the start of the regular season. After he suspiciously missed the entire 2016 season due to a routine knee scope, the Bears declined Fuller's fifth-year option. The Bears brought in multiple cornerbacks last spring, in essence to replace Fuller. Amukamara (paid $7 million guaranteed in 2017) was one of them; Marcus Cooper ($6 million guaranteed last season) another.

For the most part, Amukamara worked out for the Bears. While he failed to intercept a pass for the second consecutive season -- Amukamara's inability to take the ball way is probably his biggest downside -- the seven-year veteran played adequate enough football to start 12 games.

Cooper, on the other hand, quickly fell out of favor and spent most of the year as a reserve. That's not the role Chicago's front office envisioned for him when targeting the former Arizona Cardinal in free agency.

Unless the new coaching staff has a change of heart -- and that's difficult to envision, since Vic Fangio is returning as defensive coordinator -- Cooper's days in Chicago might be numbered. He's due $5 million in 2018, and $2 million of that becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the upcoming league year.

To his credit, Fuller played the best of any Bears cornerback in 2017, finishing with 67 tackles, two interceptions and a career-high 22 pass breakups. Whether the Bears are comfortable committing to Fuller long-term remains to be seen, but someone is going to pay him.

The Bears also have decisions to make further down the cornerback depth chart, where Sherrick McManis -- the club's special teams ace -- and Bryce Callahan (restricted) will be free agents.

Callahan and Cre'Von LeBlanc (one year left on his contract) have proven to be reliable slot cornerbacks/backups. Callahan had a career-high two interceptions playing nickel back last year.

With so much in flux, here's a look at what cornerbacks might be available to the Bears in free agency and the draft.


Malcolm Butler, New England Patriots: Butler, who made the Pro Bowl in 2015, is in line for a big contract. The Patriots probably don't want to lose Butler -- the hero of Super Bowl XLIX -- but the two sides were unable to agree to a multiyear deal last offseason.

Rashaan Melvin, Indianapolis Colts: The Waukegan, Illinois, native and former Northern Illinois star had a strong season (three interceptions, 13 pass breakups) for the Colts until he suffered a season-ending hand injury. Melvin started 19 games for the Colts over the past two seasons.

E.J. Gaines, Buffalo Bills: Gaines, who turns 26 next month, registered 59 tackles, one interception and three forced fumbles for the Bills last season. But the one-time Rams starter does have durability issues.


Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Arguably the best cornerback and safety in the draft, Fitzpatrick is a two-time national champion and winner of the Butkus and Thorpe awards. The Bears picked Fitzpatrick's former Alabama teammate Eddie Jackson in the fourth round last spring.

Denzel Ward, Ohio State: Ward was a consensus first-team All-American last year after he broke up 15 passes and had two interceptions. After sitting out the Cotton Bowl to avoid injury, Ward is vying to become the fourth Buckeyes cornerback selected in the first round in the past three years.

Josh Jackson, Iowa: Jackson led the nation with eight interceptions, with two of those picks returned for touchdowns against Wisconsin. Jackson also led the country in passes defended (26). ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls Jackson the best pure cover cornerback in the draft.