With the signings of Lamarr Houston at defensive end and re-signings of Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins at defensive tackle, plus re-upping middle linebacker D.J. Williams and signing a couple of additions at safety, cornerback now looms as the possible first target of the Bears when their turn in the first round of the 2014 draft.
All of that can change, of course, and Charles Tillman could be re-signing with the team that drafted him. But the facts that other need areas have been dialed down, the thinning talent pool at cornerback and the huge prices commanded by starters in that market, all are pointing to the Bears seeking a talented rookie to work opposite veteran Tim Jennings.
Indeed, GM Phil Emery had taken stock of the cornerback class, which is projected to have starter-grade talents available even in the second round, and likely folded that analysis into his priorities to this stage of the offseason.
“The draft has a lot more depth than what’s available in the UFA [unrestricted free agent] class,” Emery said, “and if we’re going to make a major move it would be more relative to the draft than it would be in UFA.”
[WATCH: Bears staying busy in free agency]
“Major move” has the ring of a possible and uncharacteristic first-round trade up by the Bears, although Emery traded up to grab wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round of 2012 and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl talent.
Few teams picking outside of the Top 5-10 can go comfortably into the draft with confidence of knowing exactly what and whom they can get. What Emery and the Bears have done with their signing spree this offseason – 20 signings, including 13 of their own – is expand their options and the realm of the possible.
“Definitely in terms of the areas that we need to continue to focus in on,” Emery said. “Obviously we’ve brought a couple safeties in and a defensive lineman. Linebacker Jordan Senn has been an outstanding special teams player.
“We still have a lot of work to do in terms of the draft, and it’ll continue to be, in terms of the players still available in the UFA market, when we make the next couple of moves that will provide clarity in terms of what our draft moves may be.”