In this third and final installment of examining available free agent safeties, let’s look at arguably two of the best safeties available in free agency, the Bears’ Danieal Manning and the Colts’ Antoine Bethea. Both are free safeties, meaning Tanard Jackson would likely have to move to strong safety unless either Manning or Bethea is willing to make the move.
Manning has played an intricate part in the Bears’ success on defense in recent years. Manning played in Super Bowl XLI in his rookie season, a game which the Bears lost to the Colts. In 2009, he recorded a career-high 70 solo tackles along with a sack, one interception while forcing two fumbles and recovering three.
At age 27, the 5-foot-11, 201-pound safety led a secondary unit that was ranked 13th against the pass in ’09, and his 4.48 speed allows him to keep up with most No.3 receivers in man coverage. Manning has played a key role in the Bears’ success on defense in the latter half of the decade, and is likely entering the prime of his career.
Bethea is similar to Manning in many ways. At 5 foot 11, 203 pounds, they’re almost identical. Both have been in the league for four years and both recorded 70 solo tackles in ’09, a career best. With a 4.42 40-yard-dash time, Bethea not much faster than Manning, though he did intercept four passes last year compared to Manning’s one.
The unreliability of his teammate, injury-plagued strong safety Bob Sanders, allowed Bethea to break out in ’09. Coming off a loss in the Super Bowl, he may be motivated to return for another run at the title, but for the right price, the 25-year-old safety might think otherwise.
Manning and Bethea have been the most reliable of the free agent safeties in recent years. Both avoid injury, for the most part, and both have big-play reputations in their respective secondaries. While Bethea is younger, Manning would likely be easier to sign, as the Colts and Bears are two teams seemingly headed in different directions. At this point, for the Buccaneers, the younger the better. We’ll let the Glazers decide how much money they’re willing to spend to get the young guns into camp.
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That concludes our look at free agents at the safety position. From Manning and Bethea, to Roman Harper and Bernard Pollard, to Atari Bigby and Nick Collins, there are a number of solid, young, productive safeties available for the Bucs to make a run at when free agency begins at the end of this month.
Sabby Piscitelli is entering the final year of his contrct and will likely become an restricted free agent in an uncapped 2011. Whether it’s through the draft or free agency, Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris must get another safety into camp to compete with Piscitelli. If the price is right for a young safety, the Glazers should pay it. If they take Tennessee’s Eric Berry in April’s draft, the time and money is better spent addressing the defensive line and the receiver position.
Either way, for now, strong safety remains ironically the one of the weakest and least safe positions on a defense that is poised to restore it’s image in 2010.
If the Buccaneers were to sign a free agent safety this offseason, who should they sign?
This poll is closed
Antoine Bethea, Colts
Danieal Manning, Bears
Roman Harper, Saints
Bernard Pollard, Texans
Atari Bigby, Packers
Nick Collins, Packers
Other, comment with your suggestion