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How Chris Conte Just Changed Bears Draft Focus

Alex Crowe

At the beginning of free agency, the Chicago Bears decided to bring in some help at the safety position. Ryan Mundy, formerly of the New York Giants, was signed to replace Major Wright, who had been let go. MD Jennings was also brought in, and his job was to compete with Chris Conte for the other starting safety position. Now, with Conte out 4-5 months after shoulder surgery, the dynamic of the 2014 NFL Draft has changed for Chicago.

Chris Conte was not the answer at the safety position. Not even by a little bit.

His play last season was horrible. He missed an assignment that cost the Bears the final game of the season and their shot at the playoffs.

And yet, he still played a big part in what the Bears were planning to do this off-season.

After Major Wright was let go, it was clear that Conte would be retained to fulfill the one year he had remaining on his contract with the team. Then, the Bears brought in MD Jennings, in hopes that he would compete with Conte for the starting role that Conte had with the team last season.

Conte was not the answer. The Bears weren't hanging their hat on him to save the defense. With all of the additions that have been made on the defensive line, though, there seemed to be a scenario playing out in the front office of the Bears.

Conte wasn't really given a fair shot last season. Yes, his tackling was poor at best and his awareness was far from great, but Conte also had no defensive line or linebacking core to help him in the field of play. It was almost as if every time the opposing quarterback dropped back to pass, it was Conte and Wright vs an entire offense.

After adding Lamarr Houston, Israel Idonije, Jeremiah Ratliff, Willie Young and now Jared Allen to the defensive line, the Bears improved their front four immensely. That will put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, who won't have all day to pass the ball next season.

Then, the team bolstered the linebacking core, by retaining DJ Williams and moving Shea McClellin to outside backer. This way, McClellin, Bostic and Greene would all be able to learn the position better this season than they were able to last season. With veterans in front of them, and a line that can actually create pressure, the linebacking core would have a much easier time getting to the football and turning a mistake into a takeaway.

It seemed as if the team was getting ready to trade down in the first round, and why wouldn't they? If a team wanted a certain skill player, (and there are a lot of those in this draft) then the Bears could trade back in the 1st round, and gain another 2nd or 3rd round pick in the process. That could be the pick that gets them center Roberto Garza's replacement midway through the draft. It could also be used to find a corner to train behind an aging Charles Tillman.

Now, it seems as if the dynamics of the draft have changed. With Conte out 4-5 months after getting shoulder surgery. The team is no longer able to have Conte and Jennings compete for the starting safety spot. It's either give the spot to Jennings, or draft a safety at 14.

For the sake of the defense, fans will be hoping it's the latter.

The Bears now need to address the position in the draft. Somebody like Haha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor needs to be taken by the team at pick number 14, instead of trading back and getting an extra pick. Yes, getting replacements for both Charles Tillman and Roberto Garza should still be looked at in May, but right now, for the team to still be competitive on defense, a big-time playmaker needs to be added to the roster at the safety position.

He may not know it, but by getting surgery, Chris Conte looks to have changed the entire dynamic of the 2014 NFL Draft for the Chicago Bears.

Follow Alex on Twitter (@AlexCrowe38) and our Chicago Bears News account (@spot_bears) for updates, story ideas, polls and more. Also, check out the new draft account (@spot_draft) for updates on every prospect at every position in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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