Why Khalil Mack Is No Longer the Most Indispensable Bear
Prior to last season no one would have questioned whether Khalil Mack had become the one indispensable member of the Chicago Bears.
The pass rush he brought to the defensive line transformed the defense from top 10 to top of the line.
Then Akiem Hicks' injury made it apparent he also deserved consideration.
There's a new most indispensable Bear and it's not even someone rushing the passer.
It's cornerback Kyle Fuller, who gained this status largely due to the failure of general manager Ryan Pace to bring in a viable starter at right cornerback in free agency.
By signing Robert Quinn, the Bears have made a pass rush possible even if one of their top rush men on the front seven is sidelined or just getting a rest.
Free agency hit the Bears secondary hard. They're down two starters and are scrambling with backups to try and play those spots.
With Prince Amukamara cut for cap reasons, the Bears have either former CFL player Tre Roberson, undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver II or former Steelers cornerback Artie Burns at right cornerback. None of them have the kind of experience to fit in comfortably as starter. In fact, all of them would be questionable replacing Fuller if anything happened to him.
The drop from Fuller, a 2018 All-Pro, to the other cornerbacks is huge. It's that gap the Bears have to close by drafting a cornerback, possibly in Round 2.
Fuller has 10 interceptions and two Pro Bowl berths the last two years and continues to ascend. Take him out of the lineup and the Bears are entirely diminished on the outside, easy targets for any veteran quarterback like they face on a week-to-week basis in the NFC North.
A case can be made for safety Eddie Jackson receiving similar status as indispensable. That's why he received a $58.4 million contract extension.
The difference is safeties don't always have to match up on receivers the way cornerbacks do. It's why there are 16 cornerbacks averaging at least $10 million per year and just 11 at safety according to Spotrac.com.
The Bears are about as depleted at safety as they are at cornerback, but at least Deon Bush has been a starter in the defense in the past. He started eight games, six as a rookie. Also, backup DeAndre Houston-Carson has been part of the defensive scheme since 2016 and knows it well. They brought in safety Jordan Lucas from Kansas City and he started four games in the past.
Fuller is indispensable as a player who is so much better than the alternatives at his position, one which has been neglected in a busy free agency signing period.