The Bears entered 2018 with two key members of their 2015 draft class playing the final year of their rookie contracts: Defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and safety Adrian Amos.
Goldman received a four-year, $42.04 million contract extension with $25 million guaranteed prior to Week 1, cementing him as the anchor for the Bears’ 3-4 base defense for years to come. Amos, meanwhile, was left to play out the final year of his rookie contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in two months.
“Really, it’s nothing in my hands anymore,” Amos said at Halas Hall a day after the Bears’ season ended. “I put my tape out there. I played with my teammates. I was really focused more on trying to win a Super Bowl this year. Just, man, it’s a hard day. I know I keep saying that. But it’s a hard day, a hard situation right now.”
For Amos, the frustrating feelings of coming up short in the playoffs with that 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles will fade. The idea of “unfinished business” won’t take precedent over, well, business. Both he and the Bears will have a decision to make in the coming months.
The first question is how the Bears value the 25-year-old safety. Amos set career highs in interceptions (two), pass break-ups (seven) and tackles (73) in 2018, all while playing the highest percentage of snaps (97.7 percent) of anyone on Vic Fangio’s defense. He’s proven to be a largely durable player in his four years in Chicago, playing over 1,000 snaps twice (2015, 2018) and dipping below 80 percent of his team’s defensive snaps once (2017, when he missed three games but also didn’t start until Week 4).
Amos and Eddie Jackson played off each other well, with Jackson fitting as a rangy ball-hawk and Amos a physical in-the-box type who’s adept against the run. He’s been graded well by Pro Football Focus, for what it’s worth, receiving an 82.7 grade in 2018 and 90.9 grade in 2017.
But if the Bears’ internal graded mimicked those of PFF, Amos probably would’ve been signed to an extension. Or, possibly, Ryan Pace is cognizant of the market for free agent safeties and isn’t prepared to commit a significant amount of money to Amos.
The largest contract given to a free agent safety in 2018 was a three-year, $16.35 million deal signed by Kurt Coleman with the Carolina Panthers. Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile former All-Pro, had to settle for a one-year, $7 million deal with the Houston Texans (of which $6.5 million was guaranteed, the highest guaranteed money figure for a free agent safety last year). Tre Boston, who had five interceptions in 2017, had to wait until just before training camp to sign a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals with only $800,000 guaranteed.
Granted, just one year prior, seven free agent safeties received contracts of three or more years with total values over $12 million (including Quintin Demps, who Amos replaced in the starting lineup after a season-ending injury in Week 3). Maybe 2018 was just a bad year for safeties — the Giants’ Landon Collins and the Rams’ LaMarcus Joyner will command hefty contracts, while Seattle’s Earl Thomas will be in high demand. There’s not only more star power in this safety free agent class, but more depth, too — with Amos included in that.
“It's an old cliché but you're never staying the same; you're either getting better or you're getting worse,” Pace said. “We need to make sure we're getting better.”
Amos’ durability and solid play are certainly positive traits, ones the Bears could deem worthy of a new contract. But would bringing back Amos mean the Bears would be getting better, especially if it comes at the expense of a need elsewhere? Or do the Bears believe Amos could have another gear to his game in Chuck Pagano’s scheme?
The Bears’ safety duo in 2018 was acquired in the fourth (Jackson) and fifth (Amos) rounds of the 2017 and 2015 NFL Drafts, respectively. Perhaps the Bears, with around $25 million in cap space (after the expected release of tight end Dion Sims) will figure they can address the safety spot next to Jackson in a few different ways: a competition between a cheap free agent (perhaps like Tennessee’s Kenny Vaccaro, who was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2013 when Pace was there and made $1.5 million in 2018), a mid/late-round draft pick, or an internal option (like Deon Bush).
Pace, too, may be more willing to use that limited cap space on attempting to retain slot corner Bryce Callahan and/or right tackle Bobby Massie, while using the remaining funds to address across-the-board depth. Alternatively, Amos has earned the opportunity to cash in – if the opportunity is there – after four years of reliable, solid play on a relatively cheap rookie contract.
So there are plenty of questions to be answered over the next few weeks and months regarding Amos and a potentially vacant spot at safety. Whatever happens, though, Amos will approach his impending free agency with a clear head about what appears to be a cloudy future.
“I always come out here and give it my all,” Amos said. “This year, we were a better team. We had a lot of success on defense this year. But I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent over my years here. You have bad games here and there; you have great games here and there.
“Overall, I just hope my tape speaks for itself. When coaches watch my film, (people) upstairs, they see what I bring to the table as far as communication, athleticism, everything they would want to see. I hope they’ve seen it, but I can’t worry about what they did see, but it’s already happened.”