Last Friday the Bears announced the signing of veteran free-agent safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. to a one-year contract.
Gipson, 29, has appeared in 112 NFL games with 104 starts over eight seasons with the Browns (2012-15), Jaguars (2016-18) and Texans (2019). He has recorded 446 tackles, 23 interceptions—returning three for touchdowns—47 pass breakups and 13 tackles-for-loss. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2014 after registering a career-high six interceptions.
Last season, Gipson started all 14 games he played with the Texans, compiling 51 tackles, three interceptions—one he returned 79 yards for a TD—and eight pass breakups.
Gipson conducted an introductory video teleconference with the Chicago media on Tuesday. Here are four things we learned from that session:
1) Gipson was surprised to be released by the Texans last Tuesday. But he concedes that when Houston traded away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in mid-March, it was a reminder that anything was possible.
"This is the NFL," Gipson said. "I've been around a long time. I've seen crazy things happen. We all know what happened with the Hopkins trade. So I knew then I'm definitely not safe there. So when things happen, you've just got to put your big boy pants on and figure out your next move ...
"I wasn't upset about it, honestly. I understand that's the business direction that they wanted to go into. I wasn't a part of their plans and God had bigger plans for me. I landed here in Chicago and I couldn't be more excited.
"You never want to be that [salary-cap] casualty, but at the end of the day, sometimes you've got to look in the mirror and say, 'Man, this was probably best for both sides.' I'm here now and I'm excited to make my impact with the organization here in Chicago."
2) Gipson had discussions with the Bears last year in free agency before signing with the Texans. But he couldn't pass up the opportunity a second time.
Gipson joined Houston in 2019 primarily because it enabled the Texas native to play football in his home state for the first time since high school. His family could easily make the three-hour drive from Dallas to watch his home games and visit him and his children without getting on an airplane.
After Gipson's release last week, the Bears were one of the first teams to contact him. His familiarity with the team helped make his decision to sign an easy one.
"I had history with Chicago after last year," Gipson said. "We kind of had brief conversations. This year when the opportunity came up again, it just was an opportunity I couldn't pass by. We all know the rich history of the organization and the defense and the trajectory that this organization is going. I was just excited to get the ball rolling. Everything worked out and aligned perfect, and we were able to come up to a deal."
Gipson is excited to join a defense that features Pro Bowlers at all three levels.
"Just being able to play behind a front seven like that, that's a DB's dream, any time you can have those types of dogs up front because a quarterback can only hold the ball so much," Gipson said. "With that rush and with that front seven, it's always going to include and have opportunities on the back end.
"Everybody knows the thing that prides us most is that we truly want to make sure that we can get our hands on the ball. That's the biggest thing right now, and that's one of the things we talked about when I signed here, was ball awareness and turnovers. That's the thing that this Chicago defense has prided themselves on over the past couple of years. And being able to come in here and step into this and add to that is only a blessing. And I'm hoping that this is beneficial to everyone involved."
3) Gipson is particularly excited about pairing at safety with Eddie Jackson, a fourth-year pro who has been voted to the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons.
Jackson was named All-Pro in 2018 when he recorded a career-high six interceptions and returned two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns. His five defensive TDs in 2017-18 tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons.
Last year Jackson recorded 60 tackles and two interceptions, with both picks coming late in games to seal wins over the Lions and Vikings. He also registered five tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
"Ball skills is one of the things that jumps out at you," Gipson said. "That's one of the quickest ways to get you known in the league is ball production. Two years ago I remember when he was making some noise and he was just coming on the scene and put the league on notice. He's just been a consistent player. I like his game. I like the way he plays the game. I like his instincts.
"Pairing with a guy like that, I've always prided myself on being ball-aware. And having two guys back there, with a D-line and a front seven like that in front of you, this defense has always prided themselves on being able to get turnovers, so I think that's going to be a deadly combination. I'm excited to pair with him.
"It's just a perfect pairing to me. I'm excited to get to work with him, a guy with a similar skill-set to mine. It's a blessing to be able to be involved with a defense like this and they have playmakers like that because everybody gets opportunities. If they're scared to throw over there his way, then, hey, more opportunities for me."
4) The only negative for Gipson in joining the Bears is that he won't be able to wear the No. 39 jersey he's donned in each of his first eight NFL seasons.
With Jackson entering his fourth season in No. 39 with the Bears, Gipson has been issued No. 38.
"That's a cool number," Gipson said of 39. "He would say the same. I wore it with a badge of honor. It's part of me. So it's going to be a little different. I'm going to try to come as close to 39 as I possibly can, so the 3-8 is going to be the situation for this year.
"Coming to grips with that was tough, man. That's my baby right there—39. That's how I feel what made me. But it's all fun and games. I'm just excited to have this opportunity, man. He made that number a cool number in Chicago. I tip my hat to him. You know, 38, 39 back there rocking. Thirty-eight can't be too bad."