Marcus Cooper’s time as a free agent was short-lived, and where he ultimately landed comes as something of a surprise.
NFL insider Adam Caplan tweets the Chicago Bears have re-signed Cooper, a player they cut ties with earlier in the month and cleared $4.5 million in salary cap space by doing so. Cooper had interest from the Arizona Cardinals, according to Arizona Sports Radio host Mike Jurecki. However, Arizona announced the signing of cornerback Bene Benwikere on Friday afternoon.
Caplan reports the deal is a one-year pact worth $2.5 million. It’s a relatively small chunk of change and fitting for a player who slots behind Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller, and restricted free agent Bryce Callahan on the depth chart.
Cooper started the first four games of the season, but was bumped down the depth chart when Amukamara returned to full health and Fuller took off on a career-best season. Things started to go downhill for Cooper after he was stripped before the crossing the goal line on a scooped up blocked field goal. What should have been an easy touchdown was anything but after a hustling Vance McDonald knocked the ball out of Cooper’s hand before he could score. After missing Week 5 with an injury, Cooper’s playing time diminished as he played just 47 defensive snaps. His demotion from the starting lineup coincided with an increase in playing time on special teams, where he saw a total of 147 snaps.
The Bears signed Cooper as part of the second wave of free agency in 2017. He received interest from the Steelers and Jets before signing a three-year contract with the Bears. He didn’t rate well from a metrics standpoint (Pro Football Focus graded him as the 101st-ranked cornerback), but his size (6-2, 192 pounds) gave the defense a different kind of corner the team didn’t have at the time … and still doesn’t really have at this point in time.
Cooper projects to be a depth signing who will find himself competing with the likes of Cre’von LeBlanc, Jonathon Mincy, and Doran Grant for playing time. Further, his signing shouldn’t preclude Chicago from drafting a cornerback at any point in the upcoming NFL Draft.
In the end, Cooper could end up in a role where he is primarily a special teams contributor above all else. The Bears could use some bodies there as their roster will stand at 62 players once Cooper’s signing becomes official. Only five teams (Falcons, Titans, Packers, Vikings, and Seahawks) have fewer players under contract than the Bears.