Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 16 Desmond Trufant
NFL experience: Ninth season
Looking back: After seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Trufant signed with Detroit last year only to spend most of the season injured. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 against the Bears and never fully recovered. He wound up playing in only six games. The season before that, Trufant missed seven games because of injuries, first a toe injury and later a broken forearm. Although his 2019 season was limited to nine games, he had a career-high four interceptions.
So health has been a major concern for the 30-year-old cornerback. Trufant told reporters in March that he believes his hamstring injury is behind him. When he’s healthy, he has been a solid NFL cornerback. He made a Pro Bowl appearance in 2015. Before 2019, he had been extremely durable, starting 15 games or more in five of his first six seasons.
Looking forward: The Bears released All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller in March to save salary cap space, and they didn’t have a great answer for how to fill Fuller’s spot. It doesn’t hurt to take a flier on Trufant with a one-year, $1 million contract. If Trufant can remain healthy, it’s a bargain for a player with his level of experience. If he can’t, some combination of Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor, Artie Burns and Thomas Graham will be waiting to step up.
The Bears’ defense is built to win now. That’s why a veteran cornerback made the most sense when trying to fill Fuller’s spot. Although those aforementioned young Bears cornerbacks have bright futures, the Bears would rather have a proven commodity at such a key position. If Trufant can turn back the clock and play like he was before his recent spate of injuries, the Bears will be in good shape.