The Bears will have their first non-rebuilding offseason in nearly six seasons as their goal this offseason will be to improve on their 2018. Chicago’s defense is the key to their success with at least nine defensive starters returning in 2019, the biggest question they will face is possibly having to choose between safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Bryce Callahan who will both be free agents.
Both Callahan and Amos have had similar careers with the Bears as both began their careers in 2015. Both also recorded their first career interception in the same game back in 2017. They are different as Amos was a fifth-round draft pick in 2015 and was named to Pro Football Weekly All-Rookie team in his rookie season. Callahan was signed as an undrafted free agent and performed well in the second half of the 2015 season as the Bears roster was in a state of flux.
This past season both player contributed to a Bears defense that was a league-best in a majority of defensive categories including a league-best 27 interceptions. Chicago’s secondary took advantage of a front seven that was top five in rushing the passer which forced opposing quarterbacks to force throws that lead to interceptions including five by the two players.
Callahan was the team’s starting nickel back covering the opposing slot receiver. He intercepted two passes in 13 games before breaking his foot forcing him to miss the final four games of the season. Both of his interceptions came on an undercut of out routes ran by the opposing slot receiver. He was also vital in the team’s pass rush as he posted two sacks which are exceptional for any nickel back.
Amos played every game this season which is the second time he has done so in his career. He also picked off three passes including one in the endzone in the team’s post-season game against the Eagles. Although he has lacked the consistent impact plays desired from the full safety position, Amos has built his career on not allowing the big play. He recorded a career-high in total tackles with 73 and a career high in pass deflections with nine. Chicago’s defense only allowed four passes touchdowns this season in which the ball traveled 20 yards or longer in the air.
Callahan also set a career high in tackles with 45, but he has struggled to stay healthy. The most games that Callahan has played in a season during his four-year career is 13. He has finished two of his seasons on injured reserve which makes him a risky investment if he were re-signed. Furthermore, the Bears defense did not have any issues without Callahan in the lineup. In their final three games, they only allowed two touchdowns and their opponents only averaged 12 points.
Amos’ presence in the secondary is key for continuity with strong safety and All-Pro Eddie Jackson. Jackson was free to make the big play and take chances because of Amos ability to centerfield. Jackson was able to come up forward and jump routes over the middle and some routes coming out of the backfield. Four of his six interceptions came as he was breaking towards the ball and not in the position of back peddling or chasing. That shows that Jackson trust Amos to cover the part of the field he is leaving open by coming forward.
Keeping the starting safety tandem together is vital to the future success of the Bears defense. 2018 marked the first time in nearly 12 seasons that the Bears defense had the same safeties start together that had started together the previous season. With new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano taking over, it is imperative that the defensive personnel have as much familiarity with one another as possible. It is especially important at the safety position as a lot big plays can happen due to confusion in the secondary.
Callahan is a very good nickel back and will be the top of the position for free agents this offseason. The Bears can ill afford to overpay for Callahan and have a large amount of money tied up with three of their cornerbacks. Amos will be expensive to re-sign also, but he presents more value to the defense. There is a possibility that general manager Ryan Pace is able to re-sign both starters, but it is more likely he will have to choose one of the two.