For about half the 2008 season, Kevin Payne looked like the Chicago Bears’ best defender.
Coming off a shoulder injury that severely cut short his rookie campaign, Payne appeared extremely comfortable playing in the box at strong safety while veteran Mike Brown started at free safety. But by the midway point of the season, it became apparent Brown had lost a step, so the Bears decided to flip the two players, and Payne never seemed to recover. Although he still finished his sophomore season with 129 tackles and four interceptions, Payne’s limitations when dropping back in coverage became evident.
In 2009, Payne opened up the regular season as the starting free safety, then promptly lost his job after the Green Bay Packers' Greg Jennings torched Payne and Nathan Vasher for a game-winning 50-yard touchdown reception. The 2007 fifth-round pick ended up up starting five games, but he clearly fell out of favor with the coaching staff. Payne became even more expendable after the Bears drafted Major Wright and traded for Chris Harris within the past week.
Payne, who was traded to the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, was said to be in great shape this offseason, and should be given a chance to compete for playing time with the Rams, who still need to figure things out with O.J. Atogwe. Payne is a decent player -- he can really deliver a hit –-- but St. Louis must find a way to utilize his strengths, something the Bears at times failed to do.