The Bears initially approached Hayden about returning just before the start of free agency, but the veteran opted to explore his options on a barren market flooded with a glut of cornerbacks before finally deciding to come back to the club. Multiple teams showed interest, but Hayden chose the familiarity of the Bears' organization and his hometown of Chicago.
The deal is expected to be signed Wednesday.
Hayden joined the Bears last April and started his tenure with the team as a backup to starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings but earned a key role by beating out D.J. Moore for the starting job as nickel corner. Hayden started two games opposite Tillman as a replacement for Jennings, who suffered an injured shoulder in Week 13, and finished the season with 40 tackles and an interception, in addition to recovering a career-high four fumbles, which also tied the league high.
After joining the Bears, Hayden struggled initially with the staff's moving him around to various cornerback spots before finally settling on the veteran at the nickel spot.
A former second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts out of Illinois, Hayden hoped to find an opportunity in free agency with a team that would allow him to compete for a starting job. One of the teams interested in signing Hayden would've provided that opportunity. But like Chicago with Tillman and Jennings, that team already has two starters firmly entrenched, which means Hayden would've found winning the starting job there to be difficult. So instead, Hayden chose familiarity.
Prior to joining the Bears, Hayden started 46 regular-season games and five playoff contests for the Colts from 2006-11. He intercepted
12 passes, including a 56-yard interception returned for a touchdown against the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Hayden signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2011 but played in eight games with only one start and intercepted two passes. From 2008-11, Hayden fought through a variety of injuries before eventually returning to full health for his 2012 campaign for the Bears.
With the Bears electing not to re-sign Moore, a free agent who eventually joined the Carolina Panthers, the team entered the offseason without an experienced nickel cornerback, which prompted it to reportedly attempt to sign Captain Munnerlyn, who decided to remain with the Panthers.
Hayden's return gives the Bears stability at the nickel position and depth. The club also recently re-signed Zack Bowman, and according to sources, plan to add another cornerback next month in the NFL draft.