In August 2007, the Bears traded Chris Harris to the Carolina Panthers for a fifth-round pick and replaced him with then-rookie Kevin Payne. That was interesting because Payne essentially replaced Harris at Louisiana-Monroe, and the two are close friends.
But Payne couldn’t keep the starting job last season, and the Bears committed to upgrading at safety this offseason. On Tuesday, they traded linebacker Jamar Williams to the Panthers for Harris.
With a glut of safeties, including the addition of Major Wright in the third-round of the draft, the Bears seemed poised to release Payne. But, Elias — with the blessing of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo — shopped Payne in hopes of controlling where he landed.
By Wednesday afternoon, Payne was traded to the St. Louis Rams for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2011, contingent on the safety making the roster.
That isn’t ideal because Payne was a fifth-round pick. But the Bears netted a fifth-round pick when they traded Harris, and they landed cornerback Zackary Bowman.
And when Payne got the news at a bowling alley, he was with none other than Harris.
”They’re both excited,” Elias said.
The Bears still have no shortage of safeties. Al Afalava, Josh Bullocks, Danieal Manning and Craig Steltz are veterans still on the roster, plus rookies Wright and Quentin Scott.