Kelvin Hayden to explore his options?

Updated: March 5, 2013, 8:25 PM ET
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Defensive back Kelvin Hayden is on the Chicago Bears' wish list of unrestricted free agents the organization wants to re-sign, but the eight-year NFL veteran is expected to explore other options in free agency before coming to any final decision, according to a league source.

After he battled a handful of injuries from 2008-11, the Bears signed Hayden, a former second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts out of Illinois to a one-year, $890,000 contract last April.

Hayden made 46 regular-season and five postseason starts for the Colts from 2006-11, recording a combined 12 interceptions, including a memorable fourth-quarter, 56-yard pick-six versus the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Hayden snagged a pair of interceptions while a member of the Atlanta Falcons in 2011 but was limited to just eight games and made only one start.

Hayden began his Bears career as the primary backup to starting cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, but eventually supplanted D.J. Moore as the No. 1 nickel back. Then he was thrust into a starting cornerback role for two weeks when Jennings injured his shoulder in Week 13 and had to miss the following two games. Hayden finished the year with 40 tackles, one interception and tied for the NFL lead with a career-high four fumble recoveries.

However, Hayden endured a couple of rough patches in 2012 when he never really seemed able to get comfortable on the field, which might be attributed to all the bouncing around he did from cornerback to the extremely challenging nickel back position. Hayden is likely seeking a more defined role next season, but playing nickel back for the Bears could be an option if he re-signs. The Bears defense is currently without a true nickel back on the roster after the team informed Moore he is not in their plans moving forward.

The organization also has a decision to make regarding unrestricted free agent cornerback Zack Bowman, who is expected to generate modest interest around the league after he excelled on special teams last season for the Bears, finishing tied for second with 11 special-teams tackles in just 11 games.

The Bears may also consider taking a cornerback at some juncture of April's NFL draft.

ESPNChicago's Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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