Bears' free-agent watch: Alan Ball's role diminished

Here is the second in an 18-part series examining the Chicago Bears' unrestricted free agents.

Name: Alan Ball

Position: Cornerback

Age: 30

NFL experience: Nine seasons

2015 salary: $3 million

2015 key statistics: 20 tackles (coaches’ review) and five pass breakups.

Probability to return: Slight

Outlook: The Bears thought enough of Ball to give him a $1 million signing bonus in March, but the veteran quickly lost his starting job in favor of Tracy Porter. After three weeks in the starting lineup, Ball was relegated to reserve duty the rest of the year. He played in the dime package (six defensive backs) later in the season, but failed to make much of an impact. Ball does have ideal size (6-foot-2) to play cornerback in the 3-4. For whatever reason, Ball never thrived in Chicago. Hard to envision general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox making a strong push to bring him back following a disappointing year. Plus, it’s increasingly difficult for backup players once they reach a certain age. The Bears paid Ball to start, not to come off the bench. They won’t make the same mistake twice.