INDIANAPOLIS — The biggest questions the Bears have to answer in the two weeks before the beginning of the 2019 league year revolve around two impending free agents: Slot corner Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos.
The Bears cleared $2.9 million in cap space by restructuring Kyle Long’s contract, according to multiple reports, and with that have a little over $14 million in cap space, per Spotrac. General manager Ryan Pace on Wednesday didn’t rule out other re-structuring moves that could generate more cap space in 2019, though he declined to address specifics about those potential discussions.
Regardless, Pace said the Bears aren’t approaching the impending free agencies of Callahan and Amos as a situation in which they can only retain one of the two players.
“I wouldn’t say it’s either/or and there’s ongoing discussions,” Pace said.
Notable on Wednesday was how both Pace and coach Matt Nagy talked about the importance of a slot corner. Pace mentioned the Bears were in sub packages about 85 percent of the time, while Nagy pointed to the rising demand for slot corners.
“You’ve got to be able to have a guy that can play in that slot, that can cover a wide receiver that’s a good route runner, that can do things underneath, but he’s got to be a tackler coming off the edge to be able to blitz and make different tackles,” Nagy said. “The market is going up for those type of guys.”
That could have an impact on Callahan’s price in free agency. As for Amos, the Bears value his durability and skillset, but safeties can be unearthed in the middle of drafts — as the team found with not only Amos (a 2015 fifth-round pick) but Eddie Jackson, a 2017 fourth-rounder.
“I thought (Amos) played well,” Pace said. “He played solid and the ball production increased as the season went on and I think he was comfortable in the defense. you know he's an example of a player that we drafted and developed and he's gotten better. He's a great teammate and a good Bear.”
Miller on the mend
Wide receiver Anthony Miller had shoulder surgery shortly after the Bears’ season ended and could be limited for OTAs and minicamp during the offseason program, Pace said Wednesday. The Bears don’t have a timeline for his return, but it sounds like they’ll be cautious with the 2018 second-round pick, who had his shoulder pop out multiple times last season.
Miller, though, only missed one game despite that balky shoulder and largely impressed Nagy with his play and how he carried himself during his rookie year.
“Not a lot of guys have more confidence in him, which I love,” Nagy said. “You got to see, No. 1, how much could he handle of the offense as we went. We didn’t know that, but he took a lot of the offense on and did a great job with it. We put him in different spots to make plays. You saw that happen.
“For him, mentally, he gets to see, OK, how do I play this game as a true professional. It’s 100 percent football all the time. He’s learning that. He’s becoming a student of the game. As far as his injury, he had the surgery, and we’ll get that right. I don’t know what the exact time, but hopefully in the spring/summer he’ll be back.”
Odds & ends
— The Bears do not expect Chase Daniel to use the buy-out clause in his contract and become a free agent, nor is the team planning on releasing him and netting a couple million dollars in cap savings. “We expect Chase to be a Bear for a long time,” Pace said.
— Pace said the Bears’ preference would be to have their off week in 2019 after they play the Oakland Raiders in London. That would likely place the off week sometime in October around the middle of the season.
— The Bears’ line of thinking in releasing kicker Cody Parkey at the start of the league year is to use a June 1 designation on him, allowing the team to not absorb an additional $1.125 million cap hit. Parkey’s contract, per Spotrac, stipulated that if he’s released before June 1, 2019, the Bears would have to eat that additional cap space, but the June 1 designation allows him to become a free agent before then without the Bears being penalized.