Chicago Bears: Earl Thomas
Emery explained the club’s thought process on the matter during an in-studio interview with ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” on Thursday.
“You can’t lose sight that as a league, the corner position is more valued,” Emery said. “There was a number of top safety contracts recently signed: Jairus Byrd, Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner and T.J. Ward. Look at those contracts versus the top cornerback contracts recently signed: Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields and Joe Haden. On the average, those deals for cornerbacks are much higher, starting on average per year from $10 million to $14 million. The range for safeties is about $7 million to $10 million on the very top end.
"Cornerbacks have always been more valued than safeties, so you always have to look at the value of the position. You also have to look at who you play and at the league as a whole. A good portion of the time your third cornerback is a starter. There were times last year the nickel cornerback played 70 to 80 percent of the snaps. We look at the nickel as a versatile player that can play inside, outside and cover tight ends, running backs and wideouts. We definitely knew we would get the rep value when we took Kyle Fuller. For us, that was the best player for the Bears.”
Mark Carrier remains the last Bears safety selected in the first round (1990). The Bears have taken only two safeties in the second round since 2000 (Mike Brown and Danieal Manning) but seem to address the position on an almost annual basis. Brock Vereen, taken in the fourth round this year, is the ninth safety chosen by the Bears in the past 10 drafts.
The rookie joins veterans Ryan Mundy, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Sean Cattouse in the battle for the two starting safety spots.
“As it stands right now, the starters will come from that group,” Emery said. “We feel that is a very competitive mix.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Earl Thomas failed to make a big impact at Soldier Field in Week 6.
Several Bears offensive players pointed to Thomas -- Seattle's starting free safety and the No. 14 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft -- as the Seahawks' most improved defender since the teams last met.
One Bears skill position player went as far to say Thomas, "looks like a different guy on tape the second time around."
The University of Texas product led Seattle with five interceptions and finished the regular season ranked No. 5 on the team with 71 tackles. But it wasn't always smooth sailing for Thomas in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle strong safety Lawyer Milloy -- a four-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion -- felt Thomas needed a serious attitude adjustment earlier in the season.
"It's a progression, when you have a rookie coming in, a high draft pick coming in, obviously you are going to have to deal with his attitude," Milloy said. "A lot of young guys don't care about tradition, they just care about being that man. There was a big barrier that not only myself, but Pete [Carroll] and everybody around him had to let him know, hey, we're all in it together.
"To see that progression, to see him develop into the player we want him to be, it's been a beautiful sight to see. Earl obviously has the physical attributes you want at free safety. He's a ball hawk, he loves football, he talks football and he's becoming a leader every day we step out there."
Thomas was second on team with eight solo tackles vs. New Orleans in the opening round of the NFC playoffs.
"You look at young safeties, the indecision on when to come downhill on a runner and make tackles, he is very quick to make those decisions," Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "He is a rocket and he is probably one of the best tacklers I've seen in the league this year. He is an excellent tackler. Obviously, that's what you want in a safety. He's been very impressive."