David Richard/Associated Press
The Chris Conte and Major Wright safety combination last season was dreadful. Wright is a free agent who is unlikely to return, but Conte will be given a shot to compete for a starting role in 2014.
Even though much of the fanbase has written him off, the Bears still believe Conte can be a productive player—and why not? He had a solid 2012 season and is still only 25 years old.
What can help Conte is a decent pass rush, better play from the linebackers and a partner who plays better in the box. The Bears need to find an impact strong safety who fits their system.
Cost shouldn't matter here. The Bears will have plenty of cap room if they let Peppers go to pursue a safety.
There are some quality safeties on the market. Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd is the best, but he plays a more center field style. Browns strong safety T.J. Ward is the next best on the market and fits the Bears' needs perfectly.
It could run the team $8 million a season to bring in Ward, but it's well worth it. The 27-year-old just made his first Pro Bowl last year and is quickly emerging as one of the league's best young defensive backs.
Donte Whitner and Antoine Bethea are intriguing options after Ward but don't carry the same impact. Last season, the Bears sent a message to the offense when they brought in Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett. They need to do the same with Ward.