Safety bet: Brandon Meriweather might be Bears’ best gamble
September 5, 2011 11:00PM
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New England Patriots looks on from the bench in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 11, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 47-12. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brandon Meriweather
Updated: November 26, 2011 12:26AM
NFL coaches and front-office personnel are fond of the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But while that might be true when the Dallas Cowboys dump Roy Williams and Marion Barber or the Houston Texans give up on Amobi Okoye, it usually rings hollow when the New England Patriots put anybody on the curb.
So when safety Brandon Meriweather arrived at Halas Hall on Monday, he came with two Pro Bowl selections on his resume but one very large red flag: Bill Belichick didn’t want him.
It’s a legitimate point because Belichick is an astute judge of ability who doesn’t miss often. If you can’t play for Belichick, you can still play, but rarely at the level you played for Belichick.
Ty Law, Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel are the only players to make the Pro Bowl after leaving Belichick’s Patriots. Seymour was traded to the Oakland Raiders for Randy Moss, who had one of his greatest seasons in 2007 with 23 touchdown receptions. Samuel left as an unrestricted free agent. Only Law was a true discard.
There are always exceptions. Belichick cut Robbie Gould in 2005, but even that was almost a technicality. He was a ‘‘camp leg’’ who had no shot at beating out Adam Vinatieri.
Regardless, unless he ends up on the police blotter, Meriweather is the best of the ‘‘free rolls’’ the Bears have taken in training camp. He’s a playmaker and a heavy hitter. And with even more good players in front of him with the Bears — this is just a guess — he might have a bigger margin for error than with the Patriots.
While Meriweather needs all the margin for error he can get, the payoff is enormous. Or at least as big or bigger than anything the Bears can get out of their other safeties.
Here’s what one NFL executive told the Boston Globe regarding Meriweather and his shaky status with the Patriots:
‘‘I like him. He gambles sometimes and he gets out of position sometimes, but the guy makes a lot of plays. The thing that gets Meriweather in trouble is he tries to make so many plays, he gets himself out of position. Bad angles. . . . I wouldn’t give the guy up.’’
Coach Lovie Smith said he was surprised that Meriweather was available but hinted that the Bears were ready for the possibility, a factor that helped them sign him.
‘‘You know every time you cut down to a 53-man roster, there’ll possibly be some guys that are available,’’ Smith said. ‘‘You have to be ready, have done your research before and know all the guys in the league. Our personnel department did a great job getting us in position, and we were able to jump on it.
‘‘Brandon [had] a chance to choose where [he wanted] to go. He did his research and felt like this was the place he wanted to be.’’
‘‘I just think it’ll be a good fit,’’ said Meriweather, whose 12 interceptions over the last three seasons are the fourth-most by a safety in the NFL. ‘‘The style of defense they play . . . I love coach Lovie and the organization. It’s a first-class organization.’’
Meriweather said all the right things Monday when asked if he expects to start.
‘‘I expect to do whatever the coach asks me to do,’’ he said. ‘‘If he asks me to play on special teams, I’ll do that. I just want to come in and contribute any way I can.”
He can only help the Bears. Either he beats out second-year safety Major Wright or pushes the talented Wright to a higher level. If neither happens, the Bears were doomed at the position anyway.
The immediate issue is how quickly Meriweather will learn the Bears’ defense. It’s possible he could play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons if he learns quickly.
‘‘As a safety you have to learn everything that’s going on,’’ said Chris Harris, who has played both safety positions with the Bears. ‘‘A corner doesn’t have to learn the entire defense. As a safety, you need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of run gaps. You need to know what this linebacker’s doing because of pass coverage or what this corner’s doing or what the other safety’s doing.
‘‘But he’s a very bright guy from what I could tell just talking to him. So I don’t think he’ll have a problem adjusting.’’