Free Agent Safety Squeeze Points Bears Toward Draft
The Bears made the best of an imperfect fit with their safeties in 2019.
This week at the Senior Bowl they spoke with one college player who could be more of a complementary player to Eddie Jackson than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Maryland safety Antoine Brooks Jr., the former college teammate of Packers safety Darnell Savage, was among the group of players talking to Bears scouts according to reports. Also talking to the Bears at the Senior Bowl were tight ends Jared Pinkney from Vanderbilt, Brycen Hopkins of Purdue, Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson and LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson.
NBC Sports Chicago's Bryan Perez reported both tight ends said they'd spoken with the Bears, while the other players had Bears on-field interviews witnessed by Walterfootball.com.
Brooks stood 5-10 3/4 and weighed in at a solid 213 pounds. He was strong in run support, which should make sense because he played linebacker his first two years at Maryland before switching to safety.
He's more of an in-the-box safety, but someone the Bears could use because when the Bears had Clinton-Dix and Jackson on the field in 2019 it was like lining up with two free safeties. Often Jackson was playing too close to the line for a defender who reads the quarterback so well. His interception totals dropped from six last season to two in 2019.
It's still uncertain whether they plan to try and bring Clinton-Dix back.
The Bears have Roquan Smith under contract at inside linebacker but Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis are all unrestricted free agents. Wilson would be a fit at 6-2, 250 in the role Pierre-Louis had last year. He's regarded as strong against the pass and had 10 career college interceptions.
Hopkins is regarded as an excellent receiving tight end, someone who could play the U-tight end spot in Chicago's offense. He measured at 6-foot-3 1/2, 241 pounds after a Boilermakers career which included 130 receptions for 1,945 yards and 16 touchdowns. He capped it off with a 61-catch, 830-yard senior year with seven touchdowns.
Pinkney has been regarded by some draft analysts as a first-round pick, so he'd need to fall for the Bears to have a chance at him. They have no first-round picks but draft twice in the second round at No. 43 and No. 50 overall. Pinkney is ideal size-wise for either the U-tight end spot where Trey Burton plays or the Y-tight end spot where Adam Shaheen lines up. Pinkney is 6-4, 254 and had the biggest hands of any tight end at Tuesday's Senior Bowl measurements at 10 5/8 inches.
Unlike Brycen, Pinkney struggled as a senior while Vanderbilt's offense regressed overall.
The Bears were reasonably happy with long snapper Patrick Scales last year but the previous year had a few snaps that led to problems. Scales is an unrestricted free agent this year, so that can explain the interest in Ferguson.
Ferguson compares with Reid Ferguson, the Buffalo Bills long snapper who also went to LSU and is his good friend.
"We have that sniper mentality as a specialist where you have one opportunity to go out there and do what you do best," Ferguson told reporters at the Senior Bowl.