Tracy Porter intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass on November 26, 2015 in a Chicago Bears 17-13 win. It was a significant play in a closely contested game, and in Bears-Packers lore as it snapped a three-game streak featuring more than 75 pass attempts in which Rodgers did not throw a pick against the Bears.
Even in the decline phase of his career, the Bears have a significant player to replace in their secondary now that Porter is out of the picture.
Porter would have played 2017 at his age 31 season, coming off back-to-back seasons in which Pro Football Focus gave him a “poor” grade among cornerbacks. However, Porter led Bears cornerbacks with 944 snaps played in 2016. Cre’von LeBlanc is the only returning cornerback from last season’s group who played more than 500 snaps in 2016. Only Bryce Callahan (489) played more than 400.
The Bears used free agency to supplement the group when they signed Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper. This duo will likely assume the responsibilities of being the veteran presence in the cornerbacks room and will be among those receiving the most reps at the position with Porter off the roster.
Of course, Amukamara will have to fight off the injury bug in 2017. Amukamara hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, a year in which he played in 95.48 percent of defensive snaps according to Pro Football Reference. He made a career-best 76 tackles, but came up with only one interception. In total, Amukamara has missed 15 games over the last three seasons with the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Cooper still needs to establish himself as a reliable starter moving forward. He has made 24 career starts, 13 of which came during his only season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. He set a career high with 827 snaps, which would have led Bears cornerbacks in 2016. Cooper intercepted four passes in 2016 after having just three in his previous 38 games — and all of those came during his rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.
According to Pro Football Focus, the best grade three of the Bears’ top five cornerbacks earned in 2016 was average. Amukamara, LeBlanc, and Bryce Callahan project to be the best of the bench, while B.W. Webb (65.3, below average) and Cooper (45.5, poor) have improvements to make if the Bears’ cornerback play is to improve this season.
Beyond Amukamara, Cooper, LeBlanc, Callahan, and Webb are a slew of relatively untested defensive backs. The group includes Jacoby Glenn, De’Vante Bausby, and Deiondre’ Hall, each of whom have played three years or fewer of professional football. Also in the mix is Kyle Fuller, who missed the entire 2016 season recovering from knee surgery.
The Bears could further add to the group of cornerbacks via the draft. Marshon Lattimore — who recently met with the team — is a player of interest and could be in play to be taken with the third overall pick. The position group is deep, with eight cornerbacks among CBS Sports’ 50 best draft prospects, nine on Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent update, and 11 among the top 50 on Pro Football Focus’ top 100 prospects list.
It should go without saying, but the Bears don’t look to be done shopping in the cornerbacks market, one way or another.