PHOENIX – The Bears have 21 of 22 starters under contract from a 12-4 team that won the NFC North in 2018. But that didn’t keep them from bolstering their roster in free agency.
During an hourlong session with the media Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, coach Matt Nagy spoke for the first time about the acquisitions of receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, running back Mike Davis, nickel back Buster Skrine and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Known for his creativity on offense—specifically in how he utilizes players in different roles within the scheme—Nagy is thrilled to begin working with Patterson. The versatile 6-2, 220-pounder has excelled as a kick returner, receiver and running back during six NFL seasons with the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots.
“You see what he did in New England with the jet sweeps, the [end] arounds, the screens, and I think that’s a good fit for him,” Nagy said. “For me it’s kind of like a kid in a candy store. You get to kind of pick which candy you like best, put it together and figure out what he does best. When he gets here and he starts getting on the field and we see what he can do mentally and physically, that’s when we start formulating it all and putting together some things that we’d like him to do within our offense.”
In 95 career NFL games, Patterson has averaged 30.0 yards and scored six touchdowns on 176 kickoff returns. His 30.0-yard average ranks second in league history behind Bears Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (30.6). Patterson has also caught 184 passes for 1,872 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 184 carries.
“If [I was telling you] we were bringing him here just to return kicks, I’d be lying to you,” Nagy said. “He’s going to play with the offense and he’s going to have a role. From now until Week 1 we’ve got to figure out, ‘How do we maximize what he does best?’ I don’t know that yet, but when I see him get in here and we talk to him and see what he can do, then we as an offensive staff are going to find some good stuff for him.”
Nagy is equally excited to work with Davis, a fifth-year pro who blossomed last season with the Seahawks. While watching tape of the 5-9, 217-pounder in preparation for free agency, Nagy saw a running back he felt could thrive in the Bears offense.
“I thought he had really good vision,” Nagy said. “He was a guy that can make you miss between the tackles. He has that in him. We liked that. We thought that would be a good addition to our side of the ball on offense. We’re intrigued to get him in and start learning who he is as a person. From all the research we did on him, we thought it was a great fit.”
Before the Bears hosted the Jets last season, Nagy described Skrine as “one of the better nickels in this league, if not the best.” What the 5-9, 185-pounder lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity. Skrine spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Browns (2011-14) and Jets (2015-18), recording 457 tackles, nine interceptions, 77 pass breakups, and 3.5 sacks.
“He’s one of those guys where he’s always around the football,” Nagy said. “He’s feisty. He’ll stick his nose in there on a nickel slot blitz. He’ll go in there and take your legs out. He plays the game hard, and he’s not a big guy. I always thought he was just kind of sticky. That slot receiver, if you were running a corner or a post route, he was always right on your hip.
“I’ve always appreciated him, and talking to him when he was in the building, you see he’s a mature professional. He’s going to be all-in with what we’re doing.”
Clinton-Dix steps in at safety in place of Adrian Amos, who left the Bears via free agency to sign with the rival Packers. Clinton-Dix was selected by Green Bay in the first round of the 2015 draft and played there for three-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Redskins last Oct. 30.
The Alabama product has appeared in 80 games with 74 starts in five NFL seasons, registering 438 tackles, 28 pass breakups, 14 interceptions, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, eight tackles-for-loss and eight quarterback hits. He has three additional interceptions in seven postseason contests.
Clinton-Dix has never missed a game since entering the NFL and has made 74 straight starts since joining the Packers’ No. 1 defense in Week 7 of his rookie year. His best season came in 2016 when he was voted to the Pro Bowl after compiling a career-high five interceptions.
“Everyone knows coming from being a first-round draft pick from Green Bay, he came in and had a great couple years, and this past year he’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t play as well as he probably would have wanted to play,” Nagy said.
“We just felt like here’s a great opportunity for him coming to this defense and this city and this organization. And it’s a great opportunity for us where it could fill a role at that spot—two guys that played together at Alabama with Ha Ha and Eddie [Jackson]—and it could be a win-win situation. That’s what we feel like we’re going to get from Ha Ha joining our culture and our group of guys. He’s super excited to do that.”