By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) — Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller had to earn his first interception of the season, ripping the football away from 49ers receiver Louis Murphy as he fell to the ground Sunday.
In the midst of his best season to date, Fuller was due to come away with a pick. He has continuously found a way to the football and created problems for opposing passing attacks. Fuller has a career-best 52 tackles and 13 pass breakups in 12 games.
With the help of Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, the 2014 first-round pick is finally playing closer to his potential.
“We’re seeing the football player he’s capable of being,” Donatell said a month ago.
“We’ve come a long way,” Fuller added.
The 25-year-old Fuller want an interception to help cement what has been a strong turnaround and finally got one to go his way Sunday. In the disappointing 15-14 loss to the 49ers, Fuller was one of the Bears’ top performers.
Not only is Fuller breaking up passes, but he keeps getting to the point of attack. Fuller is playing with a renewed confidence, and it reflects in how he attacks on defense.
Fuller missed the entire 2016 season recovering from a knee procedure. Last December, he was called out by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for not “champing at the bit” to return. The Bears declined Fuller’s fifth-year option, which means he will be a free agent at the end of this season. It seems they may have done him a favor.
“I don’t think about it too much,” Fuller said of his contract situation. “I’m just going out there to perform. Those things do come with it. But like I said, I’m just focusing on trying to do my best, every week, every game.”
As the Bears continue to sort through their options in the secondary, Fuller should be a priority player. They have seen constant growth in Fuller, who has taken confidence and applied it to his game. Veteran Prince Amukamara has played well but is working on a one-year deal. Marcus Cooper is on a three-year deal but hasn’t performed to the Bears’ liking.
Fuller looks to be the Bears’ best cornerback – both for now and the foreseeable future. Asked if he wants to remain in Chicago, Fuller hesitated before saying yes.
Fuller posted a career-best four interceptions his rookie season, when he had three in the first three games. He was inconsistent during his first two NFL seasons, struggling as the Bears shifted schemes in 2015. But Fuller’s play has been steady and strong this season, giving the Bears something to consider.
What will it take to re-sign Fuller? The Bears came up short in pursuit of free-agent cornerbacks on the open market last March, looking at the likes of A.J. Bouye, Stephon Gilmore and Logan Ryan. They may have to offer something similar to what Ryan got from the Titans, a three-year deal worth up to $30 million.
If the Bears aren’t willing to pay up, they’ll have to battle again in free agency and hope it goes better this time around.