The first trade after the NFL draft went down this week, as the Bears re-acquired safety Chris Harris from the Panthers in exchange for LB Jamar Williams. Below are some thoughts on the deal; you can find comparisons of previous offseason trades in previous posts. For a comparison of players traded during the NFL draft, check out this post. And for a comparison of the many offseason trades before the draft, click on this link.
The Bears once had a strong safety combo in Harris and Mike Brown, but they grew disenchanted with Harris and dealt him to Carolina two years ago. Harris proved to be a solid player against the run, and he started for the Panthers for three years. Harris is good against the run and forces more than his share of fumbles, but he needs to stay near the box instead of being a regular coverage option. Now the Bears, who haven’t found solid replacements for Harris or Brown, bring Harris back as a stop-gap option. He’ll be able to start until a youngster emerges. Williams played well behind Lance Briggs but wasn’t going to find much playing time in a crowded linebacker corps. In Carolina, he could compete for the vacant strong-side linebacker job and provide depth on the weak side in case Thomas Davis’ recovery from ACL surgery goes slowly.
After trading for Harris and drafting Major Wright, the Bears had no room for Kevin Payne, who had a strong 2008 season but struggled in ’09 after moving from strong safety to free safety. Payne was probably on his way to the chopping block when the Rams stepped in and gave up a conditional draft choice to get an early look at Payne in their OTAs. Payne is good enough to make the Rams; the question is whether he can adjust to the system.