Chicago Bears: Kenny Phillips

Bears free agency preview: Safety

February, 7, 2013
ESPNChicago examines potential unrestricted free agents at positions of need for the Bears.

Major WrightMRQ/Icon SMIChris Conte and Major Wright finally stabilized the safety position for the Bears in 2012.

Bears free agency previews: CB | DT | DE | G | WR | TE | QB | LB | OT

For the first time in recent history the safety position isn't a liability or cause for concern as the team heads into the offseason coming off a strong 2012 campaign with Major Wright and Chris Conte as the starters.

So don't expect a push from the Bears in free agency to upgrade the position. The team likely won't even look to bolster depth considering the expected returns of 2012 third-round pick Brandon Hardin and veteran Craig Steltz, who both landed on the injured reserve last season, along with two-year veteran Anthony Walters.

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Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesKenny Phillips could give the Bears some veteran insurance at safety.
Hardin sat out his entire rookie season after suffering a neck injury during the preseason while Steltz played 13 games before a chest injury ended his season. Walters, meanwhile, showed promise in limited action, which included one start in the final game in place of Conte.

Backup Troy Nolan represents the lone free agent among Chicago's group of safeties, and the club's plans for him at this point remain unknown. Because of the depth of the position, it's not necessarily imperative they bring him back.

The situation now seems unheard of given the struggles in the past at safety.

Going into the 2012 season, the Bears had switched up starting personnel at safety under Lovie Smith 56 times. In 2011, the Bears utilized eight combinations at safety. But that all changed last season with Wright and Conte lining up alongside one another for all but the final game that Conte was forced to miss because of a hamstring injury.

The duo had shown promise before, starting six games together in 2011, with the team picking off eight passes and giving up four touchdowns while holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 68.9. Wright and Conte added durability to the mix in 2012, and the results showed.

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