The Chicago Bears appear to have made a wise decision in handing Bobby Massie a four-year contract extension over the weekend. It was bold to do it this early in the offseason, but the alternatives left something to be desired, and evidently, the team didn’t want this dragging on longer than needed.
Free agent alternatives to Massie would have required a similar price tag, but with less upside, and no familiarity with the player. Drafting a replacement would have been an ideal solution, but banking on a starting caliber right tackle being available late in the third round (in a class that seems light at the position, no less) seems like a risky gamble for a team in the thick of its competitive window. Often, there’s value in going with what you know and that’s the path the Bears have decided to travel.
But what does it mean for the big picture? Safety Adrian Amos and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan are on the cusp of free agency and are worthy of contract extensions. Both would more than likely be back in the fold if we played professional football in a perfect, cap-less world. But salary cap restraints are real and the likelihood of the Bears keeping both was never all that likely.
Back in December, early estimates of the Bears’ cap situation based on projected salary cap growth suggested the team would have between $13 million and $17 million in cap space before tweaking the roster by reconstruction current deals or releasing players to create more room. Massie’s contract is going to chew into that number, so contract structure and guaranteed dollars matter. But until more details are shared, the future of two starters on the league’s top defense will remain up in the air. Still, this allows us to discuss some options as we look ahead.
Spotrac.com estimates Callahan’s market value to be in the area of a four-year contract worth a little more than $28 million. An average annual salary of $7 million would rank him 25th among cornerbacks, but would represent a hefty raise from the $1.907 million he made in 2018. Based on comparable players, this number appears accurate. A potential Callahan deal could mimic the multi-year deals Chris Harris Jr., Quandre Diggs, and Patrick Robinson received. Or because Callahan’s injury history could limit his market, perhaps the one-year pact worth $7 million Tyrann Mathieu signed in 2018 is a better baseline. In either case, Callahan is lined up for plenty of new paper to come his way.
The same can be said about Amos. As we discussed earlier this month, Amos’ new deal could be worth somewhere between $8-$9 million annually. But where Callahan has provided high-end play (when healthy) at an underrated (but important) position, Amos has been a model of durability, stability, and production. Amos earned a starting role shortly after being drafted in 2015 and was essentially a four-year starter in Chicago. The Bears had a rotating door of sub-par safeties prior to Amos’ arrival and his play has only improved since being teamed with All-Pro Eddie Jackson. As far as I know, there isn’t a Bears fan who wants to set that revolving door of madness and sadness back into rotation.
No matter how Massie’s contract is put together, the Bears won’t be in a position to bring back Amos and Callahan at their projected open-market cost. That probably leaves Chicago to decide whether it values Amos’ durability and dependability in tandem with Jackson or Callahan’s high-level of play at a more important position on the field, but an injury history that is a cause for concern.
There aren’t any clear cut answers to this point. But if you thought the Bears’ offseason wasn’t going to be interesting, think again. They’ll have some hard decisions to make at Halas Hall as they get around to shaping the Bears in 2019 and beyond.