Bears Sign Veteran Free Safety After Eddie Jackson’s Injury

Adrian Colbert Bears

Getty The Bears are signing former 49ers free safety Adrian Colbert to their active roster, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Chicago Bears are signing a new veteran free safety to their active roster after they were forced to place two-time Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson on injured reserve with a foot injury on Tuesday, November 28.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bears are signing veteran free agent safety Adrian Colbert to their 53-man roster to help account for the loss of Jackson as they prepare for the final five-game stretch of the 2022 regular season. The 29-year-old Colbert has started 22 games over his first five NFL seasons and has been looking for a new job ever since the Tennessee Titans waived him during final roster cuts in August.

“With Bears safety Eddie Jackson out due to a foot injury, the Bears are signing veteran free-agent safety Adrian Colbert, per his agents #DrewJRosenhaus and @NFLrecord,” Schefter tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

The Bears also placed leading wide receiver Darnell Mooney on injured reserve with an ankle injury that NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported earlier this week is believed to end his season. They also signed practice-squad rookie safety A.J. Thomas to their active roster, giving them more depth at the safety position after backup safety Dane Cruikshank also came away from Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets with an injury.

Prior to the moves, the Bears counted DeAndre Houston-Carson and seventh-round rookie Elijah Hicks as the only healthy safeties on their active roster. Rookie standout Jaquan Brisker missed Week 12’s game against the Jets with a concussion, but he could be cleared in time to face the Green Bay Packers in their Week 13 home game. If not, the newcomer Colbert could get some immediate reps for the defense.

Colbert Has Struggled to Latch On in Previous Stops

An additional layer of safety depth became necessary for the Bears once Jackson was determined to have a long-term injury. Chances are good that Jackson won’t return at all in 2022 considering he is required to miss a minimum of four games and wouldn’t become eligible until their regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings on January 8. With Colbert, they gain a stopgap player with nearly 40 games of experience who can prop them up for the final stretch of the season.

That said, Colbert has some work to do to prove worthy of the opportunity in Chicago.

Colbert has recorded 109 career tackles, eight pass deflections and two forced fumbles in the five years since the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL draft, but he has been unable to lock down a permanent role throughout his career despite stints with more than a fourth of the league’s teams. Colbert has also spent time in Seattle, Miami, Kansas City, New England, New York (with both the Giants and the Jets), Cleveland, Tennessee and now Chicago, but he has yet to do more than fill in as a rotational piece or a spot starter — and even that has been a struggle.

Most recently, Colbert saw action in the first four games of the 2021 regular season for the Browns, starting three games primarily at free safety and notching nine total tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, though, he allowed four receptions for 47 yards on six targets and 85 coverage snaps and also missed four tackles with just one defensive stop credited to him. He received an overall defensive grade of 43.8 for his time in Cleveland.

Will Bears Lead With Colbert or Rookie Safeties?

The Bears most likely would not be signing Colbert to their active roster if they didn’t feel he was deserving of at least a rotational role for their defense, but it will be interesting to see how head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles decide to handle playing time moving forward with Jackson out of the picture.

The plan could be straightforward if Brisker clears concussion protocol and slots back in at strong safety in time for the Packers games. With Brisker back, the Bears would be able to leave DeAndre Houston-Carter at free safety and lean on the two of them to close out the year. After all, Houston-Carter had been the No. 3 safety behind the tandem of Jackson/Brisker for the majority of the season and only played 32 total defensive snaps prior to getting a bump against the Jets.

If all goes smoothly at the starting spots, though, Eberflus and Poles will have to consider whether getting some development for their younger guys is more important for the franchise than trotting out a more experienced Colbert for short-term gains. For example, it might be more beneficial to the Bears’ long-term planning to see whether Hicks or the newly promoted Thomas can do something with a limited set of reps.

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