The Chicago Bears only have two key pieces of their starting units coming out of contract once the 2019 league year becomes official on March 13. Safety Adrian Amos and nickleback Bryce Callahan are both set to become unrestricted free agents, and it appears that the Bears are content to let them test their value around the NFL.
Amos is entering a crowded safety market and that may not play into his favor. Depending on scheme fit, there are a handful of better players available, plus there are several reclamation-types that could be looking for a fresh start that would come at a cheaper price. The latest such player is Johnathan Cyprien who was just released by the Tennessee Titans. He’s a strong safety and before missing all of 2018 with an ACL tear, he had 70 starts from 2013 to 2017.
Pro Football Weekly’s Arthur Arkush mentioned Cyprien as a potential target for a couple reasons. One, Bears’ GM Ryan Pace has targeted players like this in the past. He could likely get him on a team friendly contract with the hopes he comes back on a mission and ready to prove worthy of a longer deal. And two, as a street free agent he would not count against the comp pick formula.
I’m not too keen on the idea of replacing Amos with Cyprien, but I’d like that option more than staying with an in-house player.
There seems to be a lot of factors that could drive Amos’ price down, and as the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs writes, “the Bears want Amos back.” Keeping Amos would be a plus for Chicago's defense as they look to continue building off what they’ve done the last few years under Vic Fangio. While new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is going to keep the terminology basically the same, he’ll be sure to add his own spin to the defense, so having familiarity among the players would help ease the transition.
Even though the Bears would like Amos to return, Biggs also writes that Chicago’s “top priority is at nickel cornerback.” Now whether that means they want Callahan back remains to be seen, but there is another factor that could keep his value down around the league as well. Callahan’s consistent injury issues could scare away some teams, and no team’s medical staff knows him as well as the Bears’ staff does. He’s played like one of the best slot corners in the game, but he’s missed about five games a year on average during his four year career.
Over The Cap has the Bears sitting at about $13.6 in cap space right now, and that number would increase once the Cody Parkey cut is official, plus there are a few other accounting moves the Bears could make to free up space.
So, could the Bears bring both Amos and Callahan back?
I think they could figure out a creative way to fit them both in this year, but ‘should they’ is justy as important a question.
I still maintain that Callahan is the higher priority, and even if it proves to be a buyer’s market at safety, I still think Amos would be too pricey. The Bears have a few contract extensions coming up — Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Jackson to name a few — so unless they get a really team friendly deal I can’t see both coming back.
The aforementioned comp pick formula is something the Bears will also need to weigh before making any moves. Losing either Amos or Callahan in free agency would likely bring back a decent comp pick in 2020.
For what it’s worth, Ryan Pace has said that the Bears are in contact with both players and he’d like them both to return.
We’ll start to hear more rumors one week from today as the early negotiating window opens up for free agency on March 11.