After losing out on Rams' Finnegan, Bears re-signed cornerback and it's paying off
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:16 p.m. CDT, September 21, 2012
Ten days after the Bears had their passing game shut down in Green Bay they are set to go against the Rams talented cornerbacks, including free-agent prize Cortland Finnegan.
Before the former Pro Bowl performer reunited with his coach with the Titans, Jeff Fisher, in St. Louis, Finnegan drew significant interest from the Bears. Typically, teams that are rooted in the Cover-2 scheme like the Bears do not invest heavily in cornerbacks, choosing to pour money into the front seven. But one source said the Bears were involved with Finnegan until talks went above $9 million per season.
Finnegan, who has two interceptions and one touchdown through two games and drew a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan to seal a victory last week, received a $50 million, five-year deal from the Rams with $24 million guaranteed.
The Bears, three days after he signed, re-signed Tim Jennings. At this early juncture, they are getting more bang for their buck in a $6.6 million, two-year contract. Jennings has a career-high three interceptions and remains stout in run support. He has been on top of his game since the offseason program opened.
"It all goes to him," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. "He has worked his butt off. He's seeing the benefit of that work right now."
Yet Jennings is just four regular-season games removed from a benching in Week 16 last season in Green Bay. The Bears sent him down to start Zack Bowman with both players headed to free agency. It might have signaled the end of Jennings' run with the club but he was re-inserted in the lineup for the finale in Minnesota where he had an interception, tackle for loss and five other stops.
"They never smoothed it over with me but I knew what they were doing," Jennings said. "They were trying to motivate me and they had some decisions to make with me and Zach. I guess they wanted … to see who they wanted to sign. I took it like that really. I was able to bounce back in the Minnesota game, make it kind of tough on them."
Hoke said it wasn't a situation where the coaching staff was trying to send a message. It was simply a matter of production.
"We just wanted him to play better," he said. "There were some plays he left on the field. We went through the tape and showed them to him and he was great about it. He understood and he has been in the league long enough. Things change from week to week. He's playing at a high level right now but he also knows this is a very humbling game. You will have good days, you will have bad days. You have to continue to fight through them."
Now, the Bears will see the player they pursued, Finnegan, and the one who is doing what he believed he was capable of all along even if he only is coming into his own at 28.
"He had a great spring, great camp and it has just carried over into the season," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He's going to get the football. The thing about him is he tackles. People don't give him enough credit … he'll put his head in there. He is not a big guy but he will definitely bring you down."
He's making plays on the ball now too and making the Bears look wise for bringing him back.
Jennings has been an All Pro level player so far this year. The guy was always a good CB with some bad hands but now he's gone out and solved that problem and he's playing light out. He has three picks of his own and a direct assist on the one Conte got so as it stands he's responsible for all four Bears interceptions so far. We may a different Pro Bowl CB this year.
As for Finnegan all I can say is somebody needs to have a little sit down with Alshon Jeffery to talk about him before the game. You know sure as God made little green apples that he's gonna pull some shit with Jeffery to try and draw a penalty or get him tossed from the game. The kid has got to be smart about it and walk away. The same with Marshall.
I'm getting to that age where a lifetime warranty just doesn't mean as much to me anymore as an afternoon nap.
Honey Badger Don't Care. Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit.