The Bears talked to safety Tashaun Gipson about signing with them last offseason. The Texas native chose the Texans — and a three-year, $22.5 million contract — while the Bears got Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on a discount for one year and $3.5 million.
So when the Texans cut Gipson last week, the Bears could skip the get-to-know-you phase of their courtship. With the Texans still paying him more than $3 million, Gipson agreed to a one-year deal with the Bears.
“Chicago was definitely a familiar interest, dating back to last year,” Gipson said in a videoconference from his Dallas-area home Tuesday. “This year, when the opportunity came up again, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass by.”
It helped that Bears slot cornerback Buster Skrine, his best friend in football dating to their Browns days, spoke well of the franchise.
And the Bears’ pass rush spoke for itself.
“Just being able to play behind a front seven like that,” he said, “that’s a DB’s dream.”
Gipson had three interceptions in 14 games last year but missed the playoffs with a broken wrist and a transverse process fracture in his back. Entering his ninth season, he has appeared in the playoffs only once — the Jaguars’ 2017 season.
“You only have such a small window to be able to play in this league and, you know, leave your mark and be able to play in meaningful games,” he said. “This is a team that’s got everything that you need to truly make a run. And I think that was a major deciding factor for me.”
Guaranteed money made Gipson feel his job in Houston was safe, even as the Texans signed safety Eric Murray to a three-year deal. The Texans’ head-scratching trade of star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals showed Gipson that anything could happen, though. He “began to get a little uneasy” toward the end of last month.
The Bears proved a soft landing spot for a veteran on a “prove-it” deal — as they did for Clinton-Dix last year.
“You never want to be that casualty,” said Gipson, who turns 30 in August. “But sometimes you’ve got to look in the mirror and say, ‘Man, this was probably best for both sides.’ ”
One reason it’s best for Gipson is he gets to team with safety Eddie Jackson, whom the Bears gave a record-setting contract extension to in January.
“This defense has always prided itself on being able to get turnovers,” he said. “So I think that’s going to be a deadly combination.”
Gipson has played free safety during his NFL career, though the Jaguars and Texans liked their free and strong safeties to be somewhat interchangeable.
Jackson — who Gipson said “made his big bucks on being in the middle of the field and taking the ball away” — is the Bears’ free safety. Gipson will bring his 23 career interceptions to a strong safety position that features more run support than he’s used to.
“The biggest thing is just being able to play in these systems that are interchangeable,’’ he said. “So I’m trying to learn both and just wrap my head around it.”
Clinton-Dix did the same and finished the season with only two interceptions — both against the Redskins. Gipson said he plans to pick Jackson’s brain — and hopes the fourth-year player reciprocates — during Zoom sessions the team is limited to because of the coronavirus.
“It’s just a perfect pairing for me,” he said. “Obviously, I’m excited to get to work with him, a guy with a similar skill set to mine. It’s a blessing to be able to be involved with a defense like this — they have playmakers like that — because everybody gets opportunities.
“If they’re scared to throw over his way, then, hey, more opportunities for me.”
NOTE: Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who played for the Bears the last two seasons, signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars.