The Chicago Bears announced today the signing of safety Tom Zbikowski.
Zbikowski (5-11, 200) was born in Park Ridge, Ill. and played high school football at Buffalo Grove High School. He played collegiate ball at Notre Dame from 2004-2007 and was a two-time, third-team AP All-American and Thorpe Award finalist in 2007.
He was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft by the Baltimore Ravens, where he played four seasons, starting 14 games. He was signed by Indianapolis last offseason and started 11 games for the Colts in 2012.
For his career, Zbikowski has started 25 games, racking up 126 total tackles and three interceptions. He will sign a one-year deal for the veteran minimum ($715,000).
The Bears already have five safeties on the roster, so this is a move to add depth and provide competition in training camp. Starters Chris Conte and Major Wright were decent last season, with the duo starting all but one contest together.
The main backup is Craig Steltz, who has shown some promise as a run stopper but is mainly a special teams contributor. Tom Nelson was signed this offseason but he has just three career starts and isn't guaranteed a roster spot.
Most likely the biggest reason for the Zbikowski signing was the uncertainty surrounding Brandon Hardin, last year's third-round draft pick. A converted cornerback, Hardin struggled mightily in the preseason with the position switch and was extremely hesitant in the preseason. He then injured his neck and was placed on injured reserve, missing all of 2012. He also missed his senior season at Oregon State, meaning Hardin hasn't played a meaningful football game since 2010.
If it comes down it, the Bears may feel better inserting Zbikowski, an established veteran, over the inexperienced and oft-injured Hardin.
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.