After losing All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller due to salary cap constraints, the Chicago Bears are looking a bit bleak at the cornerback position, even with the team’s latest additions.
Chicago drafted Thomas Graham in the sixth round, with many draft analysts calling the pick a steal, and Desmond Trufant and Jaylon Johnson will be the starters, but the depth behind them is murky at best.
Behind Trufant, there’s Duke Shelley, Teez Tabor and Xavier Crawford, and behind Johnson are Artie Burns, Kindle Vildor and former CFL standout Tre Roberson. With that in mind, many are wondering whether the Bears should add another veteran to the mix, and Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report thinks a former first-round pick with a ton of question marks might be worht the risk for Chicago.
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Gareon Conley’s Career Has Been Full of Ups & Downs
Knox thinks Chicago should take its chances and go after cornerback Gareon Conley. The Las Vegas Raiders took Conley with the 24th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but it didn’t occur without controversy. Conley was accused of rape heading into the Draft that year, but after a subsequent investigation and polygraph, he was cleared of all charges and wound up suing his accuser, saying her allegations caused his stock to fall as well as cost him endorsements.
His NFL career has been alternately filled with promise, questions and debilitative injuries. A shin injury cut his rookie campaign short, and he played in just two games. He played more the following year in 2018, starting 14 games. He had 15 pass breakups and three interceptions that year, which included a memorable pick-six off Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Conley had some tackling issues, and he struggled in coverage a bit early in the season, so he was benched for a few games as a result. When he re-entered the lineup, he had memorable performances against Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown later that year, and it looked like he had turned things around.
He was traded to the Houston Texans for a 3rd-round pick in 2019, and he played 12 games for both teams combined that year. He finished the 2019 season with 39 solo tackles, an interception and a 63.2 overall rating from PFF. He allowed a passer rating of 104.2 when thrown at, however, so coverage issues are still a concern. So are injuries. He spent the entire 2020 season with the Texans on IR, so he’d certainly come cheap if the Bears were interested. But should they be?
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Knox: Bears Cap Situation Makes Adding Talented Players Difficult
According to Knox, Conley might be worth taking a risk on for a team like Chicago. Noting the Bears’ precarious salary cap situation (they currently have $220,000 in available cap space per Over the Cap), he thinks the Conley, who played his college ball at Ohio State, would be an ideal low-risk, high-reward free agent signing for the Bears:
The Bears lost a high-end starter at cornerback when they parted with Kyle Fuller, and they didn’t address the position in the draft until taking Thomas Graham Jr. in Round 6. It never hurts to have depth in the secondary, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a flier on another former first-round pick. Conley has not lived up to that draft status, was traded to the Houston Texans in 2019 and spent the 2020 season on injured reserve. However, he has shown flashes of potential. For example, in his eight games with the Texans, he allowed an opposing quarterback rating of just 87.1. He also logged three interceptions as a rookie with the Raiders. Again, this would be a low-risk, high-reward move for Chicago. Given the team’s cap situation, that’s the best sort of move the team can make at this point in the offseason.
Considering Chicago’s current depth at corner, they’ll likely be looking to bring another affordable veteran or two in. We’ll see if Conley is among them.
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