After 56 starts in over four seasons in Chicago, the Bears-Adrian Amos partnership has come to an end. Considered one of the best available safeties in an oversaturated free agent safety market, Amos signed a lucrative deal with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the contract will be a four-year deal worth $37 million, including $14 million in the first year and $21 million in the first two years of the contract.
Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of debate as to how valuable Amos really was to the Bears defense. With their
largely arbitrary player grades, outlets like Pro Football Focus have consistently contributed to the metaphorical tug of war concerning Amos’ place in the Chicago defensive box. Some have seen the high tackle numbers and grades and thought “superstar.” Factor in Amos’ standard penchant for violent hits — of which mean little in comparison to far more useful skills but do stand out as lewd football plays — and you have a traditional old school Bears player.
From the other perspective, some have seen the rampant mistakes when matched up against more prominent pass catchers in coverage and a mere three interceptions in four years and think “fine, but not irreplaceable on a great defense.” Given that the Bears ultimately let Amos walk and drew out his negotiating situation well into the 2019 off-season, it can be reasonably surmised they sat somewhere far closer to the latter sentiment.
The issue with Amos was never anything specifically related to him. As an individual talent, he’s a fine safety and an above average starter. The 25-year-old would be a starter on most NFL teams and fit in seamlessly. On a stacked Bears defense featuring more impactful star players like Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks, and Roquan Smith among others, Amos didn’t rank highly in Chicago’s hierarchy. He earned every bit of his new contract as he starts the next phase of his career on a defense where he’ll have far more responsibility. That lucrative contract is one the Bears simply couldn’t afford with other more preeminent playmakers already locked in (Mack, Hicks), or others waiting for their contract opening (Jackson) in the coming years.
You can’t reward everyone when other more deserving and important players take first priority. The NFL salary cap can be twisted around and flexed with things like restructures, but it can only be twisted around and flexed so much.
The question moving forward is who the Bears elect to replace Amos with. There are any number of available free agent safeties left on the market that could suit their fancy. Another versatile defensive back like former Falcon Brian Poole is also someone in play. If not on the open market, the draft is also always an option with names like Fresno State’s Mike Bell and Maryland’s Darnell Savage standing out as prominent mid-round possibilities.
Of course, the Bears could look inward and turn to Deon Bush. The former 2016 fourth-round pick played admirably beside Amos when Eddie Jackson went down with a foot injury late last season. Entrusting Bush in the full-time strong safety role next to a healthy Jackson is a sensible move, but it would have to undoubtedly be signed off on by new secondary coach Deshea Townsend. Whatever the case, you’re not in dire straits when you have to replace but one defensive starter on an otherwise loaded group.
Whoever does end up happening to feature as the Bears’ strong safety next season, they’ll be one of the more fortunate players in the NFL. They’ll get to play next to a First-Team All-Pro safety like Jackson that can cover for a lot of mistakes on the back-end. They’ll have a defense with a ferocious pass rush in front of them of which can do much of the same. It’s good work if you can get it.
On a star-laden Bears defense, often all you have to do is show up and be consistent.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network (subscribe here!), the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.