With Super Bowl LIII in the books and attention shifting towards free agency and the upcoming draft, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace is faced with his most difficult task yet: How he can improve this potential Super Bowl contending roster without having a ton of cap space to work with. To add to his challenge, Pace will enter the 2019 NFL Draft without a draft pick until the third round.
One of the Bears key free agents, Bobby Massie, recently locked in a 4 year, $30 million deal with $14.5 million guaranteed, leaving the Bears at around $5.5 million in cap space currently. That number could jump up to $11.5 million after the expected release of tight end Dion Sims. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for Pace to resign the other key free agents on defense, including veteran defensive backs Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan.
Amos and Callahan were important cogs to the machine that was the top-ranked Chicago Bears defense in 2018. Both first time free agents, they should generate interest from teams in need of secondary help. Former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, now the head coach of the Denver Broncos, could try to lure them away from the Bears as well. Although not impossible, it could prove very difficult to retain both Amos and Callahan.
A quick breakdown of Amos and Callahan’s career stats:
Adrian Amos (safety)
- 25 years old
- drafted in 2015 (5th round)
- played in 60 games
- 269 tackles
- 3 interceptions
- 18 passes defended
- 3 forced fumbles
- 2 sacks
Bryce Callahan (cornerback)
- 27 years old
- Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015
- played in 45 games
- 122 tackles
- 4 interceptions
- 20 passes defended
- 1 forced fumble
- 4 sacks
The stats show that Callahan has had a greater impact despite playing in fewer games, however, his availability is his biggest issue. He has struggled with injuries in his young career and 2018 was no exception. The four year veteran from Rice's season ended prematurely with a broken foot. Despite Callahan's ranking at #81 in the PFF Top 101 performers of 2018, because of his durability issues, Pace could look to go in another direction
Amos might prove the more difficult of the two defensive backs to retain. Amos has proven to be more durable: starting every game in 2018 and recorded 73 tackles, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups, the best statistical season of his career. He could command an elite safety contract, and deservedly so. Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the top safety in 2017 and was ranked as the 8th best safety in 2018. Pace could try his luck with the mid-round picks or try to sign Landon Collins or Tyrann Mathieu, who are set to become free agents as well.
Hard decisions will have to be made in the upcoming weeks leading to the draft in April. We may have witnessed the last game of either Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan or both in a Bears uniform. Still, this defense will still be one of the best despite any potential changes.
The Kings of the (NFC) North will be ready with a loaded defense to defend their throne from daunting offensive opponents such as the Chiefs, Saints, and Rams next season. Bears fans should have confidence in Ryan Pace being up to the task.