Before we get into free agency and the NFL Draft, the Bears have a few huge decisions to make with their own free agents: most notably Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan and Bobby Massie.
We’ll be taking a look at each player’s past performance, fit on the team and potential contract in evaluating whether or not the Bears should re-sign them over the next few weeks.
Last week we looked at the case to re-sign Adrian Amos. Here we look at another Bears defensive back: Bryce Callahan.
Callahan originally joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Rice in 2015. Since then, he has played primarily as the Bears’ slot corner although he did spend some time on the outside in 2016.
Over the last two seasons, Callahan has cemented himself as one of the best slot corners in the NFL. In 2017, he was sixth among slot corners in yards per snap and second in snaps per reception. He managed to improve in 2018 finishing first in yards per snap while still holding strong in snaps per reception finishing fourth.
He’s also an adept blitzer, notching 13 total pressures (most amongst cornerbacks) and two sacks last season. He also led all corners in Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity, which is a way to measure pressures on a per snap basis with a weighting towards sacks.
No matter how you slice it, Callahan is truly an impactful defender, and if that were the end of the story, the Bears would be crazy not to lock him up long term.
Unfortunately, Callahan’s biggest negative is one of the most important qualities when discussing contract extensions: availability.
Callahan has proven year in and year out that he can’t stay healthy. In his four-year career, he has never played a full season, and his 13 games last year was a career high.
Callahan has the highest potential of the three players in this series, but he also has the most risk.
We know that new Bears’ defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is going to blitz more than his predecessor. That obviously favors Callahan who, again, has shown the ability to get after the quarterback; however, you don’t extend a cornerback on his ability to blitz.
So, how does he fit in Chuck Pagano’s coverage scheme?
The 2017 Colts, the last defense Pagano led, ranked 10th in the NFL in man coverage percentage. They ran man coverage 42.6 percent of the time. For comparison, the 2017 Bears, under Vic Fangio, were 18th in man coverage percentage at 31.9.
Luckily for Callahan, he has shown the ability to excel in both man and zone coverage during his short career.
Just like we did with Amos, we need to look at past contracts of similar players to project the type of contract Callahan might receive. Here are some contracts of slot corners who were free agents last offseason:
- Aaron Colvin (26 years old): 4 years, $34 Million, $18 million guaranteed
- T.J. Carrie (28 years old): 4 years, $31 Million, $15.5 million guaranteed
- Nickell Robey-Coleman (26 years old): 3 years, $15.675 Million, $8 million guaranteed
Callahan is a tricky prediction because of his injury history. His agent will probably start the negotiations around the contract Aaron Colvin received. Callahan is arguably the better player, but I don’t see him matching that offer.
Instead, the Bears will probably start the negotiations at Robey-Coleman’s contract and both parties will meet somewhere in the middle.
Projected Contract: 3 years, $21 million, $10 million guaranteed.
At that price, the Bears will get a low-risk contract with less than half of it guaranteed, and Callahan will get a nice payday and the ability to earn more if he proves he can stay healthy, and if he does, the Bears will be more than happy to give him $7 million a year.
Due to cap constraints, the Bears will only be realistically able to sign Amos or Callahan. In my previous article, I chose to not re-sign Amos. Instead, I’m opting to spend that money on Callahan.
He is more talented and plays a more difficult position than Amos. So the decision was fairly easy.
While Callahan’s injury history is concerning, he is clearly one of the top slot corners in the league when healthy. A contract with incentives and low guarantees could make a lot of sense for both parties.