The Chicago Bears will have three more players under contract for the 2018 season … once paperwork becomes official, of course.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports the team expects to give an original-round tender to restricted free agent receivers Cameron Meredith and Josh Bellamy, as well as cornerback Bryce Callahan, via Tribune cohort Rich Campbell.
The original-round tender is the lowest of the three possible tenders (which we discussed in detail here) and means each player will earn $1.907 million in 2018. By not opting for a higher tender, the Bears risk losing their tendered restricted free agents without receiving compensation should the team refuse to match an offer sheet signed by with another team.
Meredith entered the 2017 season as the team’s projected No. 1 receiver after a 66-catch, 888-yard season in 2016, but a preseason ACL injury put an end to that possibility. That leaves Meredith on the comeback trail hoping to re-establish himself as a reliable pass-catching option. Depending on whom the Bears land in free agency and the draft, a healthy Meredith will likely slide in as the Bears’ other outside receiver.
Callahan also projects to have a pretty steady role in the Bears’ future, but on the defensive side of the ball. Callahan has been the Bears’ primary slot corner for the better part of the last three years, and could be that in the years to come once he puts together a healthy 16-game season. The 26-year-old cornerback came away with the first two interceptions of his career, a forced fumble, a sack, and a memorable special teams touchdown.
As for the other widout who was given the low-round tender, let it be known that this designation doesn’t ensure Bellamy a roster spot in 2018, nor does it mean he’ll be relied upon to be one of the team’s top receivers. Instead, it’s more about keeping one of the team’s most productive special teams players on the roster. Bellamy played 24 percent of the team’s special teams snaps, which was low, but would have been higher had the team not desperately needed his healthy body at wide receiver. Bellamy played just two special teams snaps after Week 10 after playing at least 38 percent of the special teams snaps in six of his first nine games of the year.
As a receiver, Bellamy set career bests in targets (46), catches (24), and yards (376). His 15.7 yards per catch led Bears receivers who were targeted at least 20 times in 2017. While Bellamy’s Week 9 touchdown catch of a Mitch Trubisky bomb against the Packers was the highlight of his season, drops have been an issue. Still, it’s good to have some semblance of depth at receiver. And in the end, replacing core special teamers isn’t as easy as you might imagine.