As the Chicago Bears transition into the 2019 offseason, they find themselves in a pleasantly unfamiliar situation. No longer are they the bottom feeders of their division; they are now the kings of the north.
The Chicago Bears were the darlings of the NFL in 2018, and their success gave hope to failing franchises around the league. They showed that with proper management, impactful acquisitions, and a few calculated risks, teams could rebuild quickly in the NFL. Now for the first time in a long time, the Bears will head into the 2019 season as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. However, in the modern-day NFL, offseason transactions can make or break a season. If the Bears plan on hoisting the Lombardi trophy next February, they must expand upon their offseason success from a year ago. Here are some offseason moves the team should make to solidify their status as title contenders:
The Bears made a huge splash in free agency in 2018. Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson, Prince Amukamara, and Aaron Lynch all made enormous contributions for the team in their first year. That’s not even mentioning the blockbuster trade for star pass rusher Khalil Mack. The aftermath of those signings, however, leaves the Bears with little cap space for the 2019 offseason. The $12.8 million they are projected to have puts them in the bottom quarter of the league.
With 21 players set to hit free agency, much of that money will go towards re-signing key players. While they won’t have the funds for another spending binge this offseason, with an already stellar roster that is unnecessary anyway. Their biggest priority in free agency will be trying to keep critical contributors in-house. Here are a few players they will most likely look to keep:
Amos is the team’s highest-profile free agent. Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2015, he has been one of the hidden gems of that draft class. Along with guys like Landon Collins, Earl Thomas, and Haha Clinton-Dix, Amos is one of the premier safeties in the 2019 free agency class. Last season was the first year where he made six digits as a professional, and now this offseason he is in for a huge payday.
Amos has publicly stated that he wants to remain a Chicago Bear, although he has also expressed an interest in the Denver Broncos if Chicago can’t match his asking price. With Amos’ former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now the Broncos head coach, it’s not hard to connect the dots on why. If he wants to get paid premier safety money this offseason (likely a four-year deal around $30-35 million), the Bears will be out of the market.
The best case scenario for the team is that with so many other top safeties hitting free agency this spring, Amos won’t generate the kind of value he is looking for. If they can coax him back for around $20 million over four years, that is a huge win. But if they can’t, while undoubtedly a considerable loss, the rest of the defense has enough talent to suppress the damage.
Callahan was another hidden gem found by the Bears organization in 2015; however, it wasn’t until 2017 that his impact was felt on the defense. In 2018, he popped and played a vital role as a nickel defender in Fangio’s defense. While his production is lackluster in comparison to Amos, Callahan will be the preferred player to keep in 2019. He proved to be one of the games best slot corners in 2018, and his versatility adds a lot to his value. With stud wide receivers Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kenny Golladay all in the NFC North, Callahan is a valuable resource for the Bears defense.
Injuries have plagued him throughout his career and are the only major red flag for the Bears. However, this should not deter the team from re-signing him a top priority this offseason.
The Bears already made a move to re-sign Massie late last month, and it was a fantastic one. Massie is coming off of the best year of his career. He was also one of the key contributors to Mitch Trubisky’s growth. As impressive as the Bears defense is, they won’t go far in the playoffs without great quarterback play. The development of Trubisky is still this team’s number one priority, and Massie will play a pivotal role in helping to facilitate that. His contract is a four-year deal worth just over $8 million a year.
2019 NFL Draft
Because of the move to get Mack last summer, the Bears do not have a first-round pick in this year’s draft. Chicago’s first selection won’t be until the third round. This makes projecting who will be available for them difficult; however, there have been a few names linked to them.
There have been rumblings that the Bears are interested in Ohio State corner Kendall Sheffield. Sheffield would be a potential successor to Bryce Callahan, should the team fail to re-sign him. He is likely a long-term project, but his elite speed would make him a perfect slot defender. A solid combine could move him up draft boards and out of the reach of the Bears. But, if Sheffield were to fall to Chicago in the third round, he would be a scary addition to that defense.
Another guy that is generating buzz is Mississippi St. safety Johnathan Abram. Much like how Sheffield could replace Callahan, Abram could be a replacement to Amos. Abram is supremely athletic and plays with high aggression; however, his unrefined qualities could be a turnoff to some teams. Again, with each team evaluating players differently it is impossible to project if Abram will be available for the Bears. That said, he has all the tools to be a star player. With so many other great defenders on their defense, Chicago could take their time in developing Abram, making him a desirable target.
The 2019 offseason will undoubtedly look much different for the Chicago Bears than it did a year ago. It will be less about bringing in talent, and more about keeping the talent they already have. With few resources, it may appear that there is not much Chicago will be able to do this spring. However, there are still a plethora of critical decisions that need to be made to keep the team in title contention.