New Addition Dane Cruikshank Is Exactly What The Bears Covet

The Chicago Bears have remained methodical in their approach to free agency. GM Ryan Poles isn’t looking for the biggest names. He is seeking a particular type of player. One that fits a certain profile his front office has formulated. They seem to match three key categories. They’re on the younger side for veterans, usually 28-years old and under. They’re known for playing with a chip on their shoulder, exhibiting aggression in everything they do. Last but not least, they’re cheap. Dane Cruikshank becomes the latest addition to fit that profile.

Chicago signed the 26-year old safety on Wednesday, March 30th. A prospect out of Arizona in 2018, he was selected in the 5th round by the Tennessee Titans. His reputation at the time was an athletic defensive back with size and speed. He didn’t mind delivering hits either. What he lacked was polish. Teams weren’t sure about his instincts or discipline. He was a project. The Titans were willing to take a chance.

All things considered, Cruikshank wasn’t a bad pick.

He quickly developed into a core member of their special teams. Over the past four seasons, he has logged 413 snaps on kickoff and punt coverage. He has 18 tackles in that span. Solid work. The Bears seem to have more help for the third phase, if nothing else. The obvious question is whether he has anything to offer on defense. Perhaps. It felt like 2020 should’ve been his year to ascend. Injuries stood in the way, though.

After missing the first five games, he returned with a bang by snagging his first interception. Then a snout issue popped up, and after trying to battle through it, he went back on injured reserve. Finally, in 2021, he got a chance to play, starting four games and filling in as a rotational safety. When targeted in coverage, he had a respectable 86.6 passer rating and made 43 tackles.

Bears also recognize an overlooked value of Dane Cruikshank

In a league that has become more and more specialized over the years, smart coaches understand that having players who only do certain things well isn’t bad. Sure, it’d be nice to have somebody that can do everything. The problem is those players are rare. So the best thing to do is find multiple options that can do the most necessary things well. One of the most underappreciated parts of Cruikshank’s game is his ability to match up on tight ends. Tennessee benefited from that throughout 2021, especially against greats like Travis Kelce and George Kittle.

This ability is more coveted than ever before as the NFL further embraces the era of pass-catching tight ends. Dane Cruikshank has the size, athleticism, and physicality necessary to match up with those guys. For all its talent the past few years, the Bears defense struggled quite often against tight ends. With guys like Kittle, Hunter Henry, Kyle Pitts, Dawson Knox, and Dallas Goedert on their schedule in 2022, this signing makes plenty of sense.

It isn’t a flashy signing but a calculated one.

That is what the Bears are going with for now. Their overall plan should come into greater focus after the NFL draft next month. There are still pressing needs at defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t address safety until the later rounds. If at all. That means Cruikshank may have a genuine chance to start this season.

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