In the eighth of a nine-part series, ChicagoBears.com takes an in-depth look at the Bears secondary heading into the 2017 offseason.*
After the Bears generated an all-time franchise-low 11 takeaways in 2016, general manager Ryan Pace vowed to upgrade the team's defensive backfield.
"I honestly think we need to add more playmakers to our secondary," Pace said in January. "We need to add more ball skills to our secondary. That's on me and we'll do that."
Last month at the Senior Bowl defensive coordinator Vic Fangio discussed the importance of adding players who will produce takeaways.
Rookie Cre'von LeBlanc intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown in Week 14.
"It is a priority," Fangio said. "To be a good defense you've got to be able to take the ball away and we haven't done that well. So we've got to find guys that can do it. We've got to improve in a lot of areas. If you improve a little bit in all spots, the takeaways will come as long as you've got some guys that have got the knack for doing it."
The Bears' first chance to bolster the position will come when free agency begins March 9. NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal includes three cornerbacks and three safeties among his top 25 potential free agents. (Some may be re-signed or receive a franchise tag before hitting the open market).
Rosenthal ranks Chiefs safety Eric Berry second on his list, Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore 13th, Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye 14th, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson 22nd, Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson 23rd and Cowboys safety Barry Church 25th.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks six defensive backs among the top 25 picks in the draft. They are LSU safety Jamal Adams fourth, Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore seventh, Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 13th, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker 14th, Florida cornerback Teez Tabor 19th and LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White 20th.
In 2016, the Bears secondary was led by veteran cornerback Tracy Porter, who played through a knee injury most of the season. Typically asked to cover the opponent's top receiver, Porter registered 48 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Rookie Cre'Von LeBlanc showed promise after winning the starting job at the other cornerback position midway through the season. His stats were nearly identical to Porter's with 46 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups. LeBlanc's top play came Dec. 11 in Detroit when he intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
Second-year pro Adrian Amos started 14 games at one of the safety positions, recording 60 tackles but failing to intercept a pass for the second time in as many years. At the other spot, Harold Jones-Quartey ranked second on the Bears with 82 tackles but lost his starting job to rookie Deon Bush midway through the season.
Porter (signed through 2018), LeBlanc (2018), Amos (2018), Jones-Quartey (2017), and Bush (2019) all remain under contract, but that won't prevent the Bears from making changes in the secondary.