The Bears were not expected to be big players in free agency this year, as they just haven’t had nearly the cap space available as in recent years. That doesn’t change the fact that they have needs and must find a way to fill them.
The two big questions going into the start of the negotiation period on Monday were: Would the Bears try and retain nickel corner Bryce Callahan and strong safety Adrian Amos and would they attempt to sign a veteran running back?
Late Monday afternoon, news broke that the Bears have reached an agreement on a three-year deal worth $16.5M with nickel corner Buster Skrine, formerly of the New York Jets. With the expected signing it has become obvious that the Bears did not think it was a wise move to re-sign Bryce Callahan.
There is no question that Callahan was a valuable performer for the Bears in 2018, but he has had a problem with durability since he came into the league, missing time in each of his four seasons with the Bears. In four years, Callahan missed 19 regular-season games and of course last year’s playoff loss to the Eagles.
Skrine, on the other hand, has missed a total of five games in his eight-year career. Just comparing the two player’s physical traits, Skrine is a little taller and heavier, and when we compare their measurable drills from pre-draft testing they are almost identical. Callahan ran faster (4.41 to 4.47) but everything else is fairly even. On tape, the two have similar coverage skills, but Skrine is easily the more physical player.
My feeling was that the Bears wanted to spend no more than about $5 million a year on the slot corner position. That is just about what Skrine got. Whether or not Callahan wanted more money remains to be seen, as he is unsigned as I write this. My personal opinion is the Bears passed on Callahan in order to sign Skrine. When we go back to last October, when the Bears played the Jets, Bears head coach Matt Nagy had a lot of praise for Skrine, calling him “one of the best, if not the best nickels in the NFL."
The other player the Bears reached agreement with is running back Mike Davis, a five-year vet who has played for both San Francisco and Seattle. Davis had his best year in 2018, when he ran for 514 yards on 112 carries and caught 34 passes for an additional 214 yards.
Looking at Davis on tape, he is a quick-footed slasher with good vision, cut-back skills and elusiveness. He runs low to the ground and consistently gets yardage after contact. He only timed 4.61 but has a burst and plays faster than Jordan Howard. While he is not a “home run“ hitter, he is a consistent nickel-and-dime-type runner whose style fits the offense better than Howard's
The deal is a modest one at two years and $6 million with incentives that could take it to $7 million. It remains to be seen if the Bears go after another veteran running back or wait until the draft, where there will be many backs who could fit well in the Bears offense.
As I write this, news is just breaking of Adrian Amos reportedly preparing to sign with Green Bay. No word on the contract, but if the Bears made a mistake on his value, they will now be reminded twice a year.
Also this morning, it has been reported that the Bears have restructured Khalil Mack's contract. They have converted roster bonus and salary money to signing bonus, which freed up $11M in cap space. Could something big be on the horizon? There wold be no reason to do this unless they planned to use the cash on an acquisition.