Risky Business for Bears at Cornerback

Analysis: Bashaud Breeland probably offers a better option at left cornerback because he's played there more effectively than the often-injured Desmond Trufant, who has been almost entirely a right cornerback.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

When a report about the Bears showing interest in Bashaud Breeland surfaced last week, it should have surprised no one.

Breeland remained a viable, effective cornerback, 29 years old and a key player in the Kansas City defense the last two years. He is unsigned but could bring in a bigger contract than the Bears paid for their current veteran replacement for Kyle Fuller, former Lions and Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant.

The Bears paid only $1.075 million to sign Trufant after he bombed out in Detroit, starting with a hamstring injury suffered against the Bears. A year before, he'd gone on injured reserve with the Atlanta Falcons due to an arm injury and had suffered a toe problem which cost him time earlier in the season.

The Bears could really use another veteran left cornerback who is proven who could not only challenge Trufant, but be the favorite to take the position. Their only other alternatives are players who haven't really been tested in the NFL much or at all. Kindle Vildor received 135 defensive snaps last year and some other options they have in camp are long shots to even be with the team.

The reason Breeland would be a better option than Trufant is he has played the left side. He is a left cornerback. Breeland only played right cornerback a couple of times in his career and has been at left cornerback throughout the other five seasons.

On the other hand, the Bears are relying on Trufant at left cornerback and he has been a right cornerback all but two of his eight seasons.

Trufant had his worst NFL season last year at left cornerback, plagued by hamstring issues throughout and playing just six games. His only other exposure to the left side came in 2013 in his rookie season. The Falcons moved him in 2014 to the right side and in 2015 he made the Pro Bowl and stayed at that position until going to Detroit.

Trufant was an effective cornerback from 2013-2017 after running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and recording a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap at the combine. Then he had some issues with his play in 2018 before his health deteriorated. In 2018, he failed to make an interception for the first time in his career but kept his passes defensed total up and still had an 87.6 passer rating against along with a 59.2% rate of completions when he was targeted. Those are respectable numbers.

In 2019 his injury issues piled up and his play decayed. A sure sign was his missed tackle total. He missed 18.2% of tackle attempts according to Sportradar via Pro Football Reference. With Detroit in 2020, he missed 20%. Prior to this he never had been a poor tackler.

Trufant allowed poor passer ratings against the past two seasons, 100.2 with the Falcons in 2019 and 111.3 with the Lions last year, and his completion percentage allowed went up over 65. In 2019 he did make a career-high four interceptions but also allowed four touchdown passes.

So, Detroit let Trufant go and ate about $6 million of dead cap to do it and the Bears stepped in.

So what the Bears have at left cornerback is a player who turns 31 just before the season, has been plagued by injuries for two years, has had his playing level decline during those seasons, and has not played left cornerback effectively since his rookie year of 2013.

The Bears are talking about Vildor like he's an option, too. He allowed a passer raitng of 131.2 when he played defense last year so that would simply be counting on youth to be fulfilled.

The Bears should have about $4 million available under the cap after the salary of Charles Leno Jr. clears from their payroll on June 2, and after they sign all of their draft picks to amounts projected by Spotrac.com.

They need to be on the speed dial to Breeland's agent to find out what it will take to bring a legitimate NFL cornerback onto the field for 2021 on the left side of the defense. The Vikings and also Kansas City are still interested in Breeland.

Otherwise, it's going to be a real roll of the dice at a critical position by counting on an older player who has been injured often and hasn't played that side of the field effectively since he was 23 years old.

Desmond Trufant at a glance

Career: Ninth season, 103 games, 14 INTs, 83 pass defenses, 7 fumble recoveries

2020: 6 games, 1 INT, 4 pass defenses, 1 sack, 20 tackles,

The number: 25. The number of missed games by Trufant since start of 2016 season.

2021 projection: 8 games, 1 INT, 5 pass defenses, 27 tackles.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven