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Willingness to Change with Bears a Real Key for Tashaun Gipson

Tashaun Gipson would seem to fit in with any team considering the team-first attitude he has displayed but the Bears have to find out whether he can actually fit into their scheme of interchangeable safeties

Safety Tashaun Gipson called playing for the Bears on a one-year deal a decision to pursue success over instant cash.

There's no evidence other teams had lined up to pay out more, but it could be the right fit for him.

What the Bears have to decide on the practice field is whether he's the right fit for how they want to use their safeties. At least in terms of team attitude, it appears he is the right fit.

In other words, more has to change for Gipson this season than his jersey number, which will now have to be 38 because Eddie Jackson wears No. 39.

"So coming to the right situation and being able to play meaningful games, it gets a little more important to me because I'm not a young 23-year-old guy, 24-year-old guy just saying, 'hey, I'm just trying to go where the money goes,' " Gipson said during a conference call with Chicago reporters. "Money plays a part but right now it's about winning and setting that foundation.

"Whatever else happens after this can set you up and everything else takes care of itself."

The last player in his position was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and getting another one-year deal at a cap cost to the Dallas Cowboys of $4 million was probably not what he envisioned when he entered into the realm of one-year prove-it deals. It was only $750,000 more than the Bears paid him, and Clinton-Dix by all measures had at least a respectable 2019 season with a 74.2 Pro Football Focus grade. That is good bordering on excellent.

So if Clinton-Dix didn't really get the promised payoff at age 27, what can Gipson hope for at 30 during this football season?

"You only get such a small window to be able to play in this league and leave your mark," Gipson said. "And being able to play in meaningful games, this is a team that has everything you need to truly make a run and I think that was a major deciding factor for me.

"Everything else that happens after that, everybody knows when you win games everybody gets taken care of and that’s just been an age old every since I’ve been a rookie, I've been knowing how it goes."

Whether Gipson is a better fit than Clinton-Dix is for the Bears to learn.

"He's played a lot of football and has had a lot of production in this league," Bears safeties coach Sean Desai said. "So he brings that knowledge base to our defense which will be very fun to work with, to have another veteran in the room who has some experience and has some stripes on the wall."

What Gipson hasn't done much of is play the role of in-the-box safety or traditional strong safety. He did it twice in his career with both positive and negative results. The last time was in Jacksonville and he made four interceptions for a team that made the AFC championship game.

The Bears ask both safeties to occasionally fill this role and not just one. Eddie Jackson is at his best playing back but did play closer to the line last year than Clinton-Dix and it no doubt contributed to his drop in interceptions from six to two.

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"He can play in the box, he can play in the middle of the field, and I feel myself can do the same thing," Gipson said. "However the roles shake out, it's not for me to decide.

"I just want to go out there, contribute and help win games. But the biggest thing is just being able to play in these systems that's interchangeable. That's the biggest thing right now."

Gipson's occasional forays into playing closer to the line have never produced big tackle numbers. He only had more than 64 tackles in a season only once, when he made 95 tackles in Cleveland in his second season.

Above all else the Bears hope for productivity from Gipson more like he had last year than in 2018, his final year with Jacksonville.

Last year he allowed only 54.1% completions when targeted in his area and one touchdown (20 of 37) according to Sportradar, the official NFL stat partner. In 2018 he gave up only 52.2% completions but six of those 24 completions he allowed went for touchdowns.

That's not what a team needs for from a last line of defense, so maybe the Bears can get better use from him up closer than playing deep.

What Gipson always has been able to do whether playing up or deep, or in Cleveland, Jacksonville or Houston, is make plays on the football. He has 23 career interceptions and 47 passes defensed.

"So just right now it's about playing ball, having fun, connecting and building relationships in the locker room and bonds and it's about winning football games," Gipson said. "That's the most important thing. Here now for me, that's what it's about."

Tashaun Gipson at a Glance

Wyoming  S

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 212

Key Numbers: Gipson has gone over over 64 tackles only once in his career while former Bear Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has never made less than 78 tackles in a season.

2020 Projection: 14 games played, three interceptions, seven passes defensed, 59 tackles.

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