GM Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears are about to embark on a new sort of challenge: rounding out a championship-caliber roster that doesn’t have many glaring needs. But in doing so, they must navigate a tight salary cap situation.
So let’s take a look at some of the more promising available players, to see if there might be a fit with the reigning NFC North champs.
Player, Age (in 2019), Position
Bryce Callahan, 28, cornerback
Season stats: 13 games (10 starts), 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 2 sacks, 45 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss, 5 quarterback hits.
Pro Football Focus grade: 81.4, No. 7 cornerback
Callahan was having a breakout year before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 14 against the Rams. He was deployed brilliantly by Vic Fangio, who used him as a pass-rusher (2 sacks, 5 QB Hits) and an extra run-defender (6 tackles-for-loss). That’s in addition to Callahan’s top-notch work as a pass-defender who was able to limit opposing quarterbacks to a 78.9 passer rating when targeted in coverage. Callahan was essentially playing a starter’s role and excelled in it throughout the 2018 season.
Career Stats: 45 games (29 starts), 4 interceptions, 20 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 4 sacks, 122 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 8 quarterback hits.
Career PFF grades: 64.5 (2015), 62.9 (2016), 77.7 (2017)
Being limited to 45 games in four seasons is one of those things that is hard to look past when Callahan comes up in discussion. In a league where the best “ability” is availability, injury-shortened seasons in each of a player’s first four years in the show are red flags. But when healthy, Callahan has proven to be one of the Bears’ most valuable defenders, especially in the last two seasons when the team used nickel packages as a base for its defense. Beyond injuries, one reason he has flown under the radar for so long was because productive slot corners on rebuilding teams don’t tend to generate much attention – even if they’re playing at a high level.
In The End …
Modern football requires three starting-caliber cornerbacks to be on the field at any given time, which is why Callahan is viewed as a top priority for the Bears. Callahan will have his share of suitors, with the Jets already popping up as a team to watch if he isn’t re-signed by Chicago. Baltimore made it that much more difficult for the Bars to bring back Callahan after signing Tavon Young to an extension that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid nickel cornerback. Re-signing Callahan could get expensive, though his injury history could be a limiting factor if he hits the open market.
The Bears handed out $37 million worth of guarantees to Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara last offseason, but that shouldn’t deter them from throwing more money to ensure the secondary remains a strength. After all, investing heavily in defending the pass in a pass-happy NFL isn’t the worst idea.