Last offseason, by way of the transition tag, the Bears let the Green Bay Packers set Kyle Fuller's contract value.
Almost as soon as their oldest rivals could extend Fuller an offer sheet, the Bears stepped up to match the four-year, $56 million deal, locking down their top corner, who went on to have an All-Pro season.
This offseason, the Bears didn't need a tag to help them determine top free agent Bryce Callahan's worth. The Baltimore Ravens offered a huge assist Thursday in extending Tavon Young to a three-year, $25.8 million extension, making him the highest-paid nickel in the game ... for now.
We wrote Monday that the Bears ultimately must allow the market to dictate Callahan's deal, so this provides a nice head start, if not an easy target to match, a few weeks before free agency commences. We also mentioned in that piece the other comparable recent deals for top-tier nickel backs Aaron Colvin and Bobby McCain, and Colvin's overall promise ($18 million) remains the high-water mark, despite Young cresting both annual averages.
Of course, none of these comparisons are direct apples to apples. Young is 2.5 years younger than Callahan, a bit sturdier and not rehabbing a broken foot. Moreover, the Ravens are playing with a far greater hand relative to the salary cap this offseason.
At the end of the day, it appears more and more like Callahan could be too costly to retain for the Bears, who currently have just $12 million in cap space after cutting Dion Sims. They signed Prince Amukamara to a three-year, $27 million deal shortly after Fuller a year ago — the same compensation Young just earned despite not being a full-time starter.
It speaks to the rising value of nickel corners in today's NFL, but with so much locked up on the perimeter and the fact that Pace found Callahan in college free agency and former Bear CreVon LeBlanc on waivers, Bears fans should find some solace in their general manager's ability to potentially tab Callahan's more-affordable replacement. Of course, the Bears also could be comfortable in one of their in-house prospects, such as youngsters Kevin Toliver or Michael Joseph or vet Sherrick McManis, can be capably promoted.
Nonetheless, Pace should have a better idea today of what exactly he must be willing to offer to keep his talented cover man than he did earlier in the week. Now, if any other club would like to announce an extension for their dependable box safety and/or valuable No. 3 edge rusher, we're sure the Bears would be all ears.