The Chicago Bears arguably have the two best starting cornerbacks in the NFL right now in Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. Both earned starting NFC Pro Bowl nods in 2012 and each had their best seasons in a Bears uniform. Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions, while Tillman led the NFL 10 forced fumbles, including four in one game against the Tennessee Titans. That's the bright side of where the Bears stand in the secondary, beyond that however the depth is virtually non-existent.
Further hampering the problem both Tillman and Jennings head into the final years of their contracts with the Bears. Tillman is 32-years-old while Jennings will be 30-year-old towards the end of the 2013 season. There is no young and talented depth behind either of these two stud veterans.
Kelvin Hayden is the primary backup/nickel corner and Hayden will be 30 prior to the start of the season. Hayden is more of a boundary corner versus a slot player and was exposed in that role a year ago. Hayden is meant to play on the outside as his 6-foot 195-pound frame belies lining up against the shorter quicker slot players. Hayden struggled in the nickel role last year giving up a 93.2 passer rating to opposing QBs on the season.
Beyond Hayden the experienced depth at the CB position is a stark wasteland void of any young or any experienced talent. Zack Bowman and Sherrick McMannis are listed as the fourth and fifth CBs on the roster respectively. Both have been relegated to the role of special teams contributors at this point in their careers. You wouldn't want either one being the primary backup if any of the top three CBs were to wind up hurt.
While Hayden managed to complete a full season, he has a long injury history in his career which puts him in the injury prone category. Tillman was dinged up early in the season against the Colts and any CB over 30 could be prone to break down over the course of a 17-week season.
So where is the depth and talent going to come from? Isaiah Frey a 2012 sixth round draft pick didn't make the 53-man roster last season but was a full season practice squad member. Frey was able to participate in the rookie mini-camp because he took so little reps during the actual season. Frey showed progress from the year previous when he seemed to have a deer in the headlights look. Frey was a disaster in coverage throughout most of the four pre-season games last year. Frey gave up a lot of receptions in the preseason, so it will be incumbent upon him to show a great deal of improvement and development in his second year with the Bears.
Counting on free agency cuts after June 1st also doesn't seem to be a wise decision as there is rarely any real depth or talent that gets released. Usually the players that are cut are released because they weren't able to cut the mustard with their previous team. Relying on that route seems to be a recipe for failure.
So the question now becomes what can the Bears to do solidify their CB depth chart? Is this position destined to be a weakness if one player winds up injured? Can the Bears compete in a division against the Packers who have such tremendous receiver depth? Something will have to change significantly between now and the regular season opener.