As he enters his 10th NFL season, Sherrick McManis may have to prepare for a different era to begin. McManis, a native of Peoria, IL and former Northwestern standout, has been with the Chicago Bears since 2012. He’s given the Bears seven solid seasons of depth at the cornerback position, but this year his role might change a little bit.
McManis has been a key special teams player for the Bears at times, and has been primarily a slot cornerback on defense. Over the last couple of seasons, McManis has backed up former Bears nickel Bryce Callahan. He’s done a good job in that role, too. Just last season, when Callahan went down to injury, the Bears’ defense didn’t miss a beat with McManis coming in for the remainder of the season.
Last year, though, may have started to signal the beginning of the end for McManis’ time in Chicago. There are a couple of players that could challenge McManis for his playing time going forward, starting with former undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver out of LSU.
Toliver came to the Bears as a kid who could have been drafted as high as the fifth round, but slipped out of all seven rounds. The Bears were quick to jump on him, as he presented a lot to like at the corner position — mainly physicality and the ability to play the slot if need be.
This season, the Bears invested a draft pick in former Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley. The Bears are high on Shelley because of his incredible athleticism and how he projects as an ideal slot cornerback. He can play outside, but at the NFL level, Shelley looks to be more of a nickel.
Starting in the slot, of course, is free agent signing Buster Skrine. Formerly of the New York Jets, Skrine comes to the Bears to replace Callahan as the starting nickel back.With draft capital invested in Shelley and a second year of development for Toliver, could McManis’ time as the primary backup be nearly up?
If Shelley ends up impressing over the summer, I think he could absolutely overtake McManis as the backup slot corner. He may even provide a different dynamic on special teams, because of his speed and athleticism. McManis has been a smart player, above all else, which has kept him on this team. But, I think Shelley is the biggest threat to him at this point.
Toliver will have less pressure on him this year, as he proved his worth last summer. He made the team after going undrafted, and going into his second camp, Toliver should understand he has much more going for him at this point.
The 31-year-old McManis will be a free agent next offseason, meaning he’ll have to prove he has plenty of football left in the tank. Whether it’s with the Bears or a different team, McManis will be playing for a job this season. That could also throw a different dynamic into the competition at corner this year.