It was first reported by Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune last night that Chicago Bears cornerback D.J. Moore will not be returning to the team. He has been the club’s starting nickelback the past three seasons, racking up 10 interceptions during that time frame.
After landing in Lovie Smith’s doghouse last year, Moore needed a fresh start. He’s a playmaker with a nose for the ball. He has the quickness to cover slot receivers and is a very effective blitzer. The team with whom he signs this offseason will be getting a quality player.
Moore was replaced midseason last year by Kelvin Hayden in the starting nickelback role. According to Pro Football Focus, Hayden was the only Chicago corner to finish 2012 with a negative overall grade. He allowed three touchdowns, in limited snaps, and opposing quarterbacks had a 93.2 passer rating when throwing at him.
Yet despite that, Chicago’s coaching staff is very high on Hayden. He’s an eight-year veteran who has played almost his entire career in a Cover 2 base system. He’s also versatile, with the ability to play on either side as a starter or in the slot as the nickel.
From what I’m told, the Bears will make it a priority to re-sign Hayden this offseason. Yet I also believe they will be looking for a younger corner in the draft, someone who might be able to develop into a full-time player in a year or two, considering Hayden, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are all 29 or older.
If Hayden decides to sign elsewhere, there are some intriguing options in free agency. (Click here for a full breakdown of the free-agent nickelbacks). Players like Derek Cox, Greg Toler or even Adam Jones would make solid third corners.
Moore will be missed but the Bears have a backup plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if any of those options are as good as Moore. Such is the life of an NFL player, where even if you are a quality football player, calling out your quarterback in the media is grounds for termination.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.