One realistic approach if the Bears need to replace Adrian Amos

With Eddie Jackson's coming up, the Bears' salary structure could be shattered by giving big bucks now to another safety

You're seeing more and more free agency option lists for the Bears at safety with Adrian Amos' possible departure in mind.

Most of them are dotted with viable starting safety candidates like Landon Collins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Tyrann Mathieu.

And while nothing would be more pleasing for fans than seeing Clinton-Dix become a Bear and spend his time terrorizing Aaron Rodgers, it's not something the Bears can afford or even need.

None of these big-ticket safeties makes a bit of sense for the Bears on several fronts.

For one, if they were going to sign a player like Collins or Dix, then they might just as well spend more to keep Amos.

They can't afford him, apparently, or some sort of deal would have been struck.

So players like Collins and Dix and possibly Mathieu would be too much of an instant salary cap strain. It also would be bad for another more important reason.

Signing Amos or any of those other big free agent names destroys the salary cap structure for future Bears seasons.

You're not going to see two high-priced safeties on teams unless they've spent foolishly like the Miami Dolphins did at the position. It's possible to have a couple talented ones, but only if the cornerbacks are still in their rookie contracts and weren't first-rounders. Teams can only spend so much on their secondaries and the cornerbacks are more important. They do more of the actual man-to-man coverage.

The most important factor in deciding not to sign Amos is the Bears' other safety.

With only a finite amount of cap money available for the safety position, the Bears are going to be spending a ton of it to keep their All-Pro free safety because Eddie Jackson makes plays on the ball. He's a free agent after 2020.

So the "strong" safety spot in their defense will need to be someone who is either young, rising player or a player in their first contract. Or perhaps an aging veteran is a possibility, but that's a route they've taken before and it never works because fading veterans expect more money and too many come with baggage. Remember Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy and Quintin Demps?

It should be a multi-pronged attack to solve the problem and the Bears have part of the answer to replacing Adrian Amos already on the roster.

What's wrong with Deon Bush or DeAndre Houston-Carson, or just Carson as Vic Fangio used to call him?

Neither is a big, in-the-box-type safety, but that's not really what the Bears defense uses. The safeties are usually interchangeable in their system to a large extent.

Amos' great contribution in my eyes was his closing speed and ability to deliver tackles and break up passes by being physical. In fact, it's something they're going to miss because tackling isn't a strength of any other member of their secondary except for Bryce Callahan, who is a free agent and also injury prone due to his lack of size.

Bush could be a bigger hitter. He had a reputation for doing it in college.

If they wanted to bring in a veteran to compete with Bush or even Houston-Carson, a veteran like the Colts' Mike Mitchell or the Titans' Kenny Vaccaro would be possibilities. Mitchell is 31 but still playing solid. Vaccaro has ties to the Saints from when Ryan Pace was there, and those past ties have proven strong in the past. One of them is Pro Bowl lineman Akiem Hicks.

My own favorite approach would be pursuing San Diego Chargers free agent Adrian Phillips.

Phillips was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl player last year, but not as a defensive back. He was there for special team skills. Every team can use this. But he also has started 19 games over five years.

Last year Phillips was a tackling machine with 94. He's not likely to be a high-end safety, but someone who will be there after the first wave of signings at a lower rate and if given the chance to compete could win the spot or, at worst, make special teams more effective.

Wait, though, there's more to this approach that will also keep the future salary structure intact when Eddie Jackson is making big cash.

They would then draft a safety in either Round 3 or Round 4 to throw into the mix with Bush, Houston-Carson and the veteran.

Will Harris of Boston College, Kentucky's Darius West, Miami's Juquan Johnson or Alabama's Deionte Thompson are names not likely to be gone in earlier rounds who the Bears could focus on as late as even Rounds 4 or 5.

Delaware's Nasir Adderley initially looked like a good option, but an impressive Senior Bowl week has some talking about him in the high second round and this would ruin the Bears' shot. If he fell to Round 3, his speed and cornerback-like coverage skills would make him a good choice.

One unknown in all of this is how Chuck Pagano really plans to approach this defense. He made it sound like it would be hands-off as far as changing the system, but talk is cheap at opening press conferences.

If he's going more to an in-the-box safety or looking for a bigger safety to be a coverage linebacker, they would need to look for a different type in the draft they currently don't have on the roster.

Regardless, this approach looks like it's going on the cheap, but it's actually the wise way when you know your other safety is going to be hauling away a truckload of cash in the near future.

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Gene Chamberlain
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