In what will become part of a larger story unfolding over the next few weeks, the Detroit Lions released veteran safety Louis Delmas this week. This follows the release of safety Roman Harper by the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday.
The immediate question: What about the Bears? They in fact are part of the discussion, particularly with players at positions of need for them, and with veterans who are likely going to be looking at one-year prove-it contracts such as the Bears did with James Anderson, D.J. Williams, Matt Slauson and others last offseason.
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The needs of the Bears’ defense are myriad, and the play of Chris Conte and Major Wright took the safety position from “set” going into 2013 to “seriously suspect” by midseason. Conte has another year on his rookie contract but Wright will become an unrestricted free agent in March and his return is in doubt.
But a knee-jerk “anything has to be better than Conte/Wright” reaction would be premature. Delmas, 27, was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2010 and 2011 and received a positive “grade” from ProFootballFocus.com analysts, vs. Conte and Wright both ranking among the five worst safeties in the NFL for 2013.
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But Delmas hobbled through 2013 with a knee problem that did not cause him to miss any games but kept him from fully practicing most of the season and also showed no signs of improving. That was a factor in the Lions’ decision to release the 2009 second-round pick, that and his $6 million cap cost.
Likewise, Harper was a two-time Pro Bowl selection but who also struggled last season with a knee injury.
A significant advantage with a signing like Delmas or Harper, 31, is that it immediately dials down the need quotient for the position going into the draft. But the Lions signed safety Glover Quin at the outset of free agency last offseason, and Delmas’ practice limitations were an in-season problem as far as developing a working relationship in what has to be a partnership position.