Bears sign Illini alum Alan Ball to play CB

SHARE Bears sign Illini alum Alan Ball to play CB

Alan Ball signed a one-year deal with the Bears on Friday.

For the fourth time in as many days, the Bears signed a veteran defensive player to a one-year deal on Friday.

Cornerback Alan Ball, an Illinois alum, has something in common with linebacker Mason Foster and defensive ends Ray McDonald and Jarvis Jenkins — height. At 6-2, 197 pounds, Ball is big for someone at his position.

At the NFL Annual Meeting earlier this week in Phoenix, GM Ryan Pace talked about the Bears’ preference for size.

“With pass rushers, defensive linemen and also corners,” he said, “length is something we really pay attention to.”

Ball has that, in addition to starting experience. He started all 22 games in which he played for the Jaguars; a biceps injury ended his 2014 season after seven weeks.

He’s started 44 games in his eight seasons, which included a 2007-2011 stint with the Cowboys and spending 2012 with the Texans.

The Detroit native can help the Bears on special teams — he has 38 career tackles there — but could contend for a regular defensive role, competing to be on the field in nickel situations.

Ball, who turns 30 Sunday, will compete with cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and Al Louis-Jean for what figures to be the Bears’ third cornerback spot.

One cornerback seems to have his position locked up, while another is coming off a disappointing season.

Coach John Fox praised second-year cornerback Kyle Fuller, who will play one of the two outside cornerback spots. From afar, he said he considered Fuller an “outstanding “ player.

“The way he played instinctually, as well as the physical skills,” he said. “I saw a guy that improved as the season went on. I think it’s a big leap, especially at that position. The passing game is a little more precise, I think, at our level. He’s a guy that we’re excited about.”

Fox was more critical of veteran Tim Jennings, who could play either outside corner or, in nickel, inside. Fox said Jennings knows he struggled.

“I don’t think he had one of his better years a year ago, No. 1,” Fox said. “I think he can play outside and play inside as far as experience.”

The Bears’ veteran additions allow them to draft the best player available in five weeks, rather than simply for need.

Fox has already been queried about the defense — a few weeks ago, by his own board of directors.

“Really, it is hard to predict,” he said. “I am kind of a guy that would rather understate and overproduce. I think it will be (better) sooner than later.”

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