As the beginning of the NFL's official league year for 2019 fast approaches, we're getting a better picture of this year's free agent pool. Teams cannot officially sign players until Wednesday, March 14, but contract discussions can (and do*) take place before then. There was already a solid group of defensive backs on the market, but that group got a little bit bigger when the Baltimore Ravens made a surprising move by releasing veteran safety Eric Weddle. Not only was this a salary cap move by the Ravens, but this also is part of their continuing shift towards getting younger. Weddle turned 34 in January, the age where most players are at the latter stages of their career.
Weddle, however, is still one of the top players at his position. He has consistently shown the ability to defy age as evidenced by the fact that he’s played the full 16-game season in nine of his 12 seasons, including the last three. At the same time, his age also may convince him to take a short-term, team-friendly deal as he may just want to play one or two more years. This would work for the Chicago Bears, as they only have roughly $15 million in cap space (per Spotrac) for the upcoming season.
*Editor's note: On Friday afternoon, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Weddle intends to sign a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams.
Here are five other reasons why the Bears should consider bringing Weddle into the fold.
The 37th overall pick of the 2007 draft out of Utah, Weddle has been solid throughout his 12-year career. He has played in 185 regular season games, during which he's registered 1,070 total tackles, 37 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 29 interceptions, 95 pass deflections, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and four defensive touchdowns. He’s been consistent, he’s one of the better tacklers in the game, an excellent coverage guy, solid against the run, and his ability to blitz is a nice bonus.
Weddle has played the full 16-game regular season for nine of his 12 seasons. He played 15 games in his 2007 rookie year, and 13 in both 2009 and '15. He rarely misses playing time and considering the Bears have had injuries in their secondary through the years, his ability to stay relatively healthy will be a huge plus for this defense.
Familiarity with the defense
During most of his years with the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers and during all three seasons in Baltimore, Weddle played in some form of the 3-4 defense. With this being the base package of the Bears, now coordinated by Chuck Pagano, it shouldn’t take Weddle too long to integrate himself. His skill set would only add to a defense that ranked first in points and third in points allowed per game in 2018.
Another big name
If the Bears can bring Weddle into the fold he’ll be another big name on a defense that already includes Khalil Mack, Akien Hicks, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, Danny Trevathan, and Leonard Floyd, among others. Adding him would give Chicago's defense a seventh Pro Bowler, and another weapon for Pagano to have at his disposal.
Potential need at the position
The Bears do have their own free agent safeties to attend to first. Both Adrian Amos and DeAndre Houston-Carson are on the market after playing out their rookie deals. Whether or not they re-sign with the Bears depends on what they're looking for and which other teams have an interest in each. If the Bears lose one or both to new teams, then it opens a vacancy on the roster that Weddle could definitely fill.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.