March 08, 2021

2021 Bears position needs: Free agent and draft options at cornerback

Cornerback feels pretty solid for the Bears. Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson are a great combination in the starting lineup. If anything, they simply need depth behind those two.

Here’s where the Bears stand at cornerback:

Who is on the roster in 2021?

Fuller and Johnson should be the starting corners, barring either’s involvement in a trade. Buster Skrine is under contract for one more season but is a likely candidate to be cut for cap space. Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor remain under contract for multiple seasons. The Bears signed Xavier Crawford to a futures contract. Tre Roberson, who missed the season with an injury, is still under contract in 2021.

Who are the pending free agents?

Safety/cornerback Sherrick McManis is a free agent. Cornerback Artie Burns, who tore an ACL in training camp, is as well. Michael Joseph, who spent the season on injured reserve, is an exclusive rights free agent.

Thoughts on the internal options in 2021?

The Bears have a lot of pieces in place already on the roster. If they make a blockbuster trade for a quarterback, Fuller’s name will be discussed. But he’s also one of the best defenders on the team, and it would be hard for the Bears to part ways with him. Johnson is another young cornerback who teams might seek in a trade. Outside of any surprise trades, however, they both should be in the starting lineup.

Skrine served as the nickelback before a concussion Dec. 6 ended his season. The Bears likely cut Skrine for cap space and roll with Shelley as the nickelback, who took on the role in Skrine’s absence. Vildor saw some time as a rookie and is only going to improve. Roberson, who had success with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, remains an intriguing player. McManis, who is 33, probably is on his way out.

Who is available in free agency?

The Bears aren’t going to spend big on the likes of Patrick Peterson, A.J. Bouye or Richard Sherman.

If anything, they probably would target a cheap backup who can contribute to special teams to fill a void left by Skrine and McManis – someone in the mold of Jacksonville’s Sidney Jones, who played a high number of special teams snaps. Carolina’s Corn Elder, Denver’s De’Vante Bausby and Las Vegas’ Daryl Worley could fill a similar role, although the Bears aren’t going to be willing to spend much.

Who is available in the draft?

The draft might be a more likely avenue to find a backup, albeit maybe a low priority. After taking Johnson with a second-round pick and Vildor in the fifth round in 2020, investing in another cornerback early in the draft wouldn’t make a ton of sense in 2021.

Mid- to late-round options include Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir, LSU’s Kary Vincent Jr., South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu, California’s Camryn Bynum and Oklahoma State’s Rodarius Williams.

What’s your best guess?

The Bears cut Skrine and let McManis walk. The key players in their 2021 cornerback rotation probably are the ones already on the roster. They potentially draft another cornerback in the sixth or seventh round or pass and try to find additional depth via undrafted free agents.

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.