When Prince Amukamara suits up for the Chicago Bears in 2017, he will be entering his third consecutive contract year.
The Bears will make Amukamara’s third team in three seasons. He was a New York Giants first-round pick (19th overall) in 2011, playing five seasons with the Giants. There wasn’t a sixth season because New York probably noticed how much time he missed due to injuries in his first five years and couldn’t commit an expensive, long-term contact to a player with an extensive injury history. Enter the Jacksonville Jaguars, who saw a former first-round pick who was a starting-caliber cornerback, and were able (and willing) to look past his injury littered past to sign a one-year, make-good deal.
Now, it’s the Bears’ turn to take a spin at the wheel and hope Amukamara can be productive and healthy for their team in 2017. Amukamara is a nice fit for a defensive secondary that was young and inexperienced in 2016. If he can put together his first fully healthy season since 2013, Amukamara’s experience and steady play could pay dividends for a unit that was inconsistent, even on its best day.
Player, Age (in 2017) Position
Prince Amukamara, 28, cornerback
1 year, $7 million ($3.5 million in guarantees)
- Season stats: 14 games (12 starts), 0 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 46 tackles
- Pro Football Focus Grade: 76.6, 42nd among cornerbacks
It was a disappointing year statistically for Amukamara, who finished the season with zeroes in the interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery columns in 2016. Not quite the stat line you’re looking for when your team is coming off a season in which it forced a lowly 11 turnovers. However, Amukamara graded out as an average corner by Pro Football Focus, and his 76.1 coverage grade last season ranked 41st among 111 qualifying cornerbacks — and that would have rated as the best among those who played for the Bears in 2016.
Performance Before 2016
- Career stats: 69 games (57 starts), 7 interceptions, 51 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles (2 recovered), 271 tackles
- PFF grades: 56.3 (2011), 75.9 (2012), 76.2 (2013), 78.8 (2014), 79.3 (2015)
Amukamara is a bastion of consistency, at least when it comes to his PFF grades. After grading as a poor cornerback as a rookie with the New York Giants in 2011, he stepped his game up enough to be a respectable corner for the next four seasons. All things considered, he’s a quality cornerback who has proven to be a reliable and dependable member of a secondary – someone who can be trusted to start a game and play significant snaps without being a total liability in pass defense.
The Bears, who should be desperate to reverse their fortunes in the turnover department, would certainly like it if Amukamara was able to recapture his 2014 season, in which he intercepted three passes in eight games. (But, well … play more than eight games.)
Amukamara missed 25 games in his first five years, all with the New York Giants. He missed 17 of those in his first (nine games) and fourth season (eight games), but it’s worth noting that Amukamara has completed just one season (2013) without missing a game. It’s likely a reason the Giants let him go after his contract was up — and also probably why the Jaguars signed him as a free agent last year.
Frankly, taking his injury history into consideration is a likely reason why he ended up landing in Chicago. Amukamara fits the Bears’ plan of using short-term commitments to field a deeper roster in 2017, while simultaneously keeping their powder dry in 2018 and beyond. There aren’t too many teams willing to risk a long-term contract on a player who has missed 15 games in the last three seasons. On the flip side, a situation like that leaves the Bears open as a landing spot for a former first-round pick looking to make good on a “prove-it” deal.
If all goes well, the Bears will have a productive defensive back and Amukamara can cash in on a big contract next offseason.
Where Amukamara Fits
The Bears didn’t land one of the high-priced, high-upside cornerbacks when Stephon Gilmore and A.J. Bouye signed with the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. But in Amukamara, the Bears did land a starting caliber cornerback. He should slot right in as a Week 1 starter for Vic Fangio’s defense. And when he does, he will provide a significant upgrade over Tracy Porter, who struggled with a 40.6 grade at Pro Football Focus that ranked 106th among 112 qualifying cornerbacks.
Of course, that’s if he stays healthy enough for long enough to be a contributing factor in 2017.
“My style as a corner, I just want to get up in your face and just press.”
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 15, 2017
While press coverage doesn’t allow for cornerbacks to make a lot of plays on the ball compared to defenders who play off and read the quarterback from the snap, his disruptive style at the line of scrimmage can throw off the timing a quarterback has with a receiver. Fangio and Fox prefer physical cornerbacks who are disruptive forces in the secondary, because it can buy time for a good pass rush to make plays and wreak havoc in the backfield.