Bears offseason outlook: Safety

The Bears need to get Eddie Jackson back to his top form in 2021.
By 670 The Score

Editor's note: This marks the 10th piece in a series of positional outlooks for the Bears' roster entering this offseason. Click here to read the rest of them.

(670 The Score) The first roster move of the Bears' offseason in 2020 was to lock in two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson on a lucrative contract extension, which at the time made him the highest-paid player annually at his position.

Jackson then underperformed his contract in 2020, which makes getting him back to top form a priority as Chicago heads toward a new season needing more at safety. Here's where the Bears stand at the position entering the offseason.

Who's under contract
Eddie Jackson, 27 -- After posting six interceptions in 2018, Jackson has just two picks in the past two seasons, including none in 2020. It's an inexplicable drop in production, and Bears haven't quite figured out the reason why.

Marqui Christian, 26 -- An NFL veteran of 56 games, Christian joined the Bears on a reserve/future contract.

Free agents
Tashaun Gipson, 30 -- The veteran Gipson fit well in the Bears' secondary, playing a full 16-game regular season while making two interceptions. He earned the opportunity to return in 2021.

DeAndre Houston-Carson, 27 -- A Bear since 2016, Houston-Carson has been a key player on special teams. He worked on 82% of Chicago's special teams snaps in 2020 and 81% in 2019.

Deon Bush, 27 -- Bush was in line to be the Bears' starter at safety alongside Jackson in 2020 before Gipson entered the fold in early May. Bush played in 11 games last season, working only 66 snaps on defense.

Sherrick McManis, 33 -- McManis has enjoyed quite the run in Chicago. He's the longest-tenured Bears player, having been in the organization since 2012.

Jordan Lucas, 27 -- Lucas never took the practice field with the Bears in 2020, opting out of the season after signing a one-year deal.

How they got here
Since Jackson emerged in 2017 as a mainstay of the defense after being selected in the fourth round, the Bears have been seeking the right complement for him at safety.

Adrian Amos played alongside Jackson for two years before signing with the Packers in March 2019. Veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix filled the starting role in 2019 but lasted just one season in Chicago. Gipson was then a strong fit alongside Jackson in 2020.

The trouble was that while Gipson played well, Jackson struggled. He had zero interceptions in part because he didn't make enough plays and also because opponents didn't throw his way often. Jackson also struggled with his tackling once again, missing 13.7% of his tackles.

The Bears need to figure out why Jackson regressed so significantly in 2020 and address it ahead of next season.

Quote to note
"He understands the things that he's capable of doing, so I don't think his confidence has wavered or anything like that to the point where we need to pick a guy like that up. He understands that he's in control of everything and he understands how great of a player he is and how great of a player he can be."
-- Gipson on Jackson's struggles

What's ahead
New Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai has expressed his desire to build a defense around the strengths of his players. That would strongly suggest creating more opportunities for Jackson, whom Desai worked with closely in his role as safeties coach for the last two seasons.

One of Desai's strengths is his understanding of his personnel. In the case of Jackson, he needs to recognize why and how offenses went away from him and how he can put Jackson in position to make more plays.

The Bears have a decision to make at the other safety position. Bringing Gipson back seems like the best course of action, as he complements Jackson well and will come at a reasonable cost.

The Bears also need to add depth at safety -- and for special teams. Houston-Carson and McManis should both be back in their respective roles for 2021.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.