The Bears-Packers rivalry, ahead of its 199th regular season game, added another subplot this offseason: Adrian Amos went from Chicago to Green Bay. And Ha Ha Clinton-Dix went from Green Bay to Chicago (with a layover in Washington).
“Yeah man, we just swapped out,” Clinton-Dix laughed. “I talked with Amos a couple times. These are two of the best organizations in the league. I don’t think you’ll find a finer organization than the one here or the one in Wisconsin. We got the best of both worlds.”
Clinton-Dix, as it turns out, learned fast: “The one in Wisconsin” or “the guys up north,” as fellow safety Deon Bush said, is a preferred title among Bears fans for their longtime rivals. But his tone was far more harmonious regarding the Bears-Packers safety swap than has been the case among fans over the last five and a half months.
The debates on social media between the two fanbases have been far less amicable. All of a sudden, Amos was a PFF-inflated, overrated member of the Bears’ defense last year. And Clinton-Dix couldn’t tackle.
There are some truths behind those arguments — Amos’ Pro Football Focus grade probably was a little high, and Clinton-Dix did have some tackling issues over his time in Green Bay, especially toward the end. But neither ex-Bears or ex-Packer is as bad as some members of each fanbase would like to believe.
“Adrian, man, he taught me a lot,” Bush said. “He played safety at a high level for all four years he was here. He taught me a lot about the game, just seeing the game in different ways, you know how to be physical, great tackler, just a great person at the end of the day. Great person overall.”
Amos signed a four-year, $36 million deal with $12 million in guaranteed money (realistically, the way the contract is structured Amos is practically guaranteed a little over $20 million, per Spotrac). The Bears liked Amos, but with an Eddie Jackson megacontract looming didn’t want to tie up a significant chunk of their salary cap into the safety position. Plus, with other extensions on the horizon — like the one Cody Whitehair signed this week — the Bears were hesitant to be big spenders this offseason.
More than anything, the Bears were happy to see Amos — a fifth-round pick in general manager Ryan Pace’s first draft class — get the contract he earned.
“For me, he was moreso a brother than a teammate,” wide receiver Allen Robinson, who played with Amos at Penn State as well as in Chicago, said. “When you see your friend get that financial stability, it’s always good to see.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur lauded Amos’ veteran presence and the example he’s set for a franchise looking to end its longest playoff drought in over a decade. Perhaps Amos took some of the lessons he picked up from veterans in Chicago and is using them to grow into a team leader in Green Bay. And what he lacked in ball skills he made up for in discipline and physicality.
But in Chicago, the Bears have seen Clinton-Dix fit in well, too. His ballhawking skills and good rapport with Jackson (Clinton-Dix recruited Jackson to play his college ball at Alabama) have made him a natural fit in Chuck Pagano’s defense so far.
“He’s bought in, he’s coachable, he’s smart,” Pagano said. “Prepares well. Practices well. He gives himself a chance to go play well on game day. Again, he’s got experience, so there’s things that he’s done and he’s seen, from a communication standpoint, technique standpoint, that he really brings a lot to the table.”
Importantly, too, the Bears signed Clinton-Dix for cheap — one year, $3 million — which allows them some much-needed flexibility in the future. The Bears viewed the deal as a win-win: They get a good player on an inexpensive contract, while Clinton-Dix gets a shot at rebuilding his free agent value as a member of the NFL’s reigning top defense.
So both the Bears and Packers will enter Thursday night feeling good about their safety swap. Clinton-Dix said he’s not viewing this game with any extra motivation, even though his time in Green Bay ended with a midseason trade to Washington. And within the Bears’ locker room, there’s mostly excitement to see their old teammate again on Thursday, even if he traded in a historic “C” for a historic “G” on his helmet.
“I was super happy,” Bush said. “Adrian’s like a brother to me. We still talk to this day. So just seeing him get what he deserved and a big contract, it was just great to see.
“… I mean, unfortunately, it’s with our biggest rival.”
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