Safety switch only adds intrigue to Packers-Bears season opener

SHARE Safety switch only adds intrigue to Packers-Bears season opener

The Bears signed safety Ha Clinton-Dix. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Bears general manager Ryan Pace said he felt proud to see safety Adrian Amos sign a long-term deal in free agency, even though it was with the rival Packers.

‘‘You draft a guy where we drafted him [in the fifth round], and to see him grow as a player and the contract that he got, [it’s] awesome for him,’’ Pace said during the NFL annual meetings last week in Phoenix. ‘‘So when that happens, we’ve got to be ready to respond, right?’’

The Bears did, signing former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a first-round pick in 2014 who was traded to the Redskins during last season.

‘‘It’s fun,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘It’ll look funny seeing [Amos] in that uniform. I’m sure it’ll look the same for the Packers fans with Ha Ha.’’

The Bears’ season opener against the Packers at Soldier Field didn’t need any extra storylines to spice it up. But the longtime rivals’ switch at safety certainly provides that.

‘‘They’re a little bit different, but we’re excited about Ha Ha’s skill set,’’ Pace said. ‘‘He’s obviously got good ball skills. He’s rangy. We feel like he’s interchangeable. We feel like he can play free or he can play strong. So combining him with Eddie [Jackson] just gives us some flexibility. But the key thing is Ha Ha really wanted to be part of this.’’

Amos did, too, but his price mattered. He was one several safeties who received significant contracts in free agency this month. The Packers signed him to a four-year, $36 million contract, including $12 million guaranteed.

The Bears signed Clinton-Dix (14 interceptions in five seasons), who has the ‘‘ball skills’’ and history of making ‘‘rangy’’ plays that former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio often sought from Amos (three interceptions in four seasons), and saved $8.75 million in the process.

Clinton-Dix said he turned down more money on the open market to sign a one-year, prove-it deal with the Bears worth $3.25 million.

For the Bears, it’s a switch that also indicates how far they’ve come under Pace. He knows he can’t keep all of his homegrown players. It’s the same predicament the NFL’s best teams face every year.


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It happened again this offseason. Defensive end Trey Flowers left the Patriots for a five-year, $90 million deal ($56 million guaranteed) with the Lions. Linebacker Za’Darius Smith signed a four-year, $66 million contract ($20 million guaranteed) with the Packers after four seasons with the Ravens.

The Bears have targeted other drafted players to re-sign. They likely will include Jackson, an All-Pro safety, after next season.

Amos’ new contract also puts the Bears in position to receive a compensatory selection for the 2020 draft. projects that the Bears will receive a fourth-round selection. If that happens, it would be the Bears’ first compensatory pick since 2009.

The compensatory formula is complicated, and Pace warned that some ‘‘tweaking’’ might happen to it. But it is a roster-building avenue the Bears are mindful of. also projects the Bears will receive a fifth-round pick after nickel back Bryce Callahan received a three-year, $21 million contract from the Broncos.

‘‘We’ve come a long way to be talking about that,’’ Pace said.

The safety switch also is a sign of how different things are in Green Bay. Clinton-Dix’s play had slipped since his Pro Bowl season in 2016, but he also fell out of favor because of all the changes around him. It’s a common story around the league. It happened with many Bears when Pace replaced former GM Phil Emery.

Brian Gutekunst was in the Packers’ front office when Clinton-Dix was drafted, but he wasn’t the GM. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine also was in his first season with the Packers last season.

‘‘We went back and looked at the totality of his work and all the way back from our college evaluations to his first couple of years in the league,’’ Pace said. ‘‘We had a lot of very honest conversations with him, and he was very honest and upfront, too.

‘‘But what jumped out was how bad he wanted to be here. He’s kind of coming in with a chip on his shoulder, and you can’t ask for any more than that.’’

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