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Josh Bullocks signing his free agent tender Thursday was relatively minor news, but don't underestimate the role Bullocks may play for the Bears this upcoming season.
Obviously, the Bears need -- and will try -- to upgrade the safety position, whether via the draft, free agency, or both. But when you look at safeties currently on the roster, Bullocks is easily in the top three, and some argue he's the best on the team.
Bullocks performed very well in the Bears’ final two games of 2009, recording seven tackles against the Vikings and Lions. A former starter in New Orleans -- 49 regular-season starts in five seasons -- Bullocks understands the defense, and is trusted to be in the right spot at the right time. Don't discount the impression Bullocks made on the coaching staff and his teammates towards the end of the year.
Bullocks, Danieal Manning and Craig Steltz are viewed as the three most dependable safeties on the team. Manning is by far the most athletically gifted, however the Bears insistance to shuffle him around the secondary leaves us to believe they don't view him as a long-term answer at safety.
Even though Manning may compete for a starting job at strong safety this summer -- if he's still on the team -- history tells us the Bears may not keep him in one spot for too long. I still have my doubts about Steltz, but he's held in high regard by certain members of the organization. Plus, he's a former fourth-round pick, and we all know how the Bears view and treat their draft choices. One positive for Steltz, players say he's extremely dependable, an important trait that other safeties like Al Afalava and Kevin Payne fail to possess.
We all know the Bears need to address the safety position, and we all know Bullocks is far from perfect. But when you objectively look at the current landscape at safety, it's looking more and more like Bullocks may be asked to play a bigger role in 2010.