There appears to be a discrepancy in cornerback Bryce Callahan’s perceived value on the edge of free agency.
On the one hand, Pro Football Focus ranks Callahan as the second-highest-rated free agent cornerback in this class. Callahan is coming off a career year, one that earned him a spot among PFF’s list of 101 best players in 2018. The top-notch slot corner cracked the list as he combined top-notch coverage skills (0.69 receiving yards allowed per coverage snap out of the slot was the fewest among slot corners, per PFF) and timely blitzing from the secondary (2 sacks, 5 QB Hits, 6 tackles-for-loss) to put together a career-best season. And yet, that’s only one of the hands …
On the other hand, we have NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, whose rankings of the league’s top 25 free agents is chock-full of defensive standouts, but does not include Bryce Callahan. In fact, Callahan didn’t even make Rosenthal’s list of honorable mentions, even though three cornerbacks and six safeties show up on Rosenthal’s 38-player list. That’s nine defensive backs listed and Callahan isn’t one of them. Ouch, dude.
So could a difference in opinions regarding the potential valuation of Callahan help the Bears secure one of their defense’s most important pieces? It seems like that’s a distinct possibility, doesn’t it?
According to spotrac.com, Callahan’s value on the open market is a little more than $7 million per year. That would make Callahan the 26th-highest-paid cornerback on an AAV basis, but would put near the top of the payroll mountain when it came to nickel cornerbacks. Should Callahan get that type of deal on a per-year basis, the Bears will have tied up $30 million in average annual salaries for their top three cornerbacks. That’s a fair amount of cap space tied into one position group, albeit an important one when you consider the opposing quarterbacks the Bears are scheduled to face next year and figure to face if they’re fortunate to make the postseason again.
However, it’s possible Callahan’s deal doesn’t fetch as much as his market value would otherwise suggest. Callahan has struggled with injuries in each of his first four seasons and ended the 2018 campaign on injured reserve. In an NFL landscape where the best ability is availability, Callahan’s injury littered past might present a red flag for teams who could be in on him this offseason. But still … he has been productive in a role of growing importance in modern, passer-friendly football.
The Bears still hold the power to bring back Callahan, though it will take further budget-crunching to do so. But after Bobby Massie’s extension turned out to be more team-friendly than originally expected, there should be optimism that the team could get a deal done with Callahan should they feel strongly inclined to do so.
If not, Callahan will have a market of suitors, even if there isn’t a consensus on his value just yet.