After the first wave of free agency concluded, one surprising name who many thought would get a deal during that first wave remained unsigned. That player is former Chicago Bears cornerback, Bryce Callahan.
He was coming off a bit of a breakout year for the Vic Fangio led Chicago Bears defense. He was a lockdown slot corner for them who ended up missing the final part of the regular season and postseason because of a foot injury. He eventually did his contract when he reunited with former Defensive Coordinator, now Head Coach Vic Fangio in Denver. Callahan turned his breakout year with the Bears into a three year, $21 million contract with the Broncos that includes $10 million in guaranteed money.
Bryce Callahan Profile
Age: 27 years old
Experience: 4 years
Callahan played his college ball at Rice and had a decent collegiate career during his four years with that program. During his four-year career at Rice, Callahan totaled 145 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 25 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles.
Callahan entered the 2015 NFL Draft but went undrafted and later signed with the Chicago Bears. He then spent the past four seasons with the Bears and has turned himself into one of the better slot corners in the NFL.
During his four year career in the NFL, Callahan has totaled 123 tackles, 4 sacks, 21 pass deflections, 4 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. This past season with the Bears, Callahan had a bit of a breakout year under Vic Fangio. He totaled 45 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 pass deflections, 2 Interceptions, and one defensive touchdown. He had his season cut short due to a broken foot late in the year.
Slot cornerbacks are extremely valuable in today's NFL and Bryce Callahan has been a big part of the Chicago defense turning itself around and becoming one of the better units in the league.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 6, 2019
He finds himself on our top free agent cornerbacks list: https://t.co/97aQtjfikX pic.twitter.com/N23BNFSnTv
Now Callahan joins a Broncos secondary looking to return to their “No Fly Zone” days of the past and by the sounds of it, we can thank Head Coach Vic Fangio for this. Callahan told reporters after he signed that Fangio is the reason why he decided to join the Broncos.
“There were a couple of teams involved in the second wave of free agency. The Broncos were always my top pick because of Head Coach Vic]Fangio and Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell. I felt comfortable in this system. I’ve been playing with them for a couple of years. I feel like I won’t have to be learning a whole new system. I can just get in and go. That’s kind of why I chose here. Denver is a nice place. I had some friends play for the Broncos and they had nothing but good things to say. It wasn’t really a hard decision.”
He also told reporters that money “always plays a part” in deciding where to sign, but once again reiterated that “Coach Vic” and the same system is why he decided to join the Broncos.
Look for Callahan to continue his dominance in the slot to continue this season for the Broncos. This will continue a recent history of dominance from the slot position started by Chris Harris Jr. and now continuing with Callahan(and likely some of Harris as well).
Well, there is a lot of like about Callahan.
He helps strengthen a cornerback unit that took a step back last season because of a mix of talent loss and coaching. With Chris Harris Jr. likely playing outside more in Fangio’s scheme, Callahan will step in and man the slot position and continue what he did last season with the Bears in the same defensive system.
His knowledge of the system should help his likely fellow starting cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Isaac Yiadom learn the system a little bit quicker this spring and summer as well.
Callahan can cover well, he’s a solid tackler, he can blitz, and he’s one of the best slot corners in the game. I mean, there’s a lot to like here and the Broncos getting this caliber of player in a bit of bargain compared to what he was expected to get. Many assumed he would go in the first wave of free agency and earn himself a big deal. For some reason that never happened and the Broncos benefited from this big time
This nugget from Pro Football Focus is just another example of how good of a player Callahan is.
“When covering the slot, he allowed just 0.69 yards per coverage snap and a passer rating of 78.9, which rank second and eighth among cornerbacks, respectively. The four-year-veteran demonstrated the ability to effectively rush the passer, as well, generating 13 total pressures (including two sacks), despite never logging more than two pressures in a season prior to this year.”
As I have said a few times now, Callahan is a damn good player and will quickly help the Broncos transition from the disappointing Vance Joseph Broncos to the hard nosed Vic Fangio Broncos.
The only thing I really have here is Callahan coming off a foot injury. Late in the year, Callahan suffered a broken foot that unfortunately ended his season and postseason. This has been mentioned as a reason why Callahan didn’t get the big deal many assumed he would but that again worked in the Broncos favor.
#Bears nickel CB Bryce Callahan suffered a broken bone in his foot in Sunday's win over the #Rams, sources say. Fifth metatarsal. His timeline is TBD but he'll likely be out a while. He was balling, so a tough one for Chicago.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 11, 2018
This injury limited him a little bit early on, but he has been getting eased into action during OTA’s and looks to be recovering well from this injury.
That’s all I have.
Bryce Callahan on Vic Fangio’s emphasis on tackling from his secondary.
“Tackling is really important. Coach Vic harps on it. We watch a lot of tackling film during the season. If your secondary can’t tackle, then you’re not going to have a good run defense because there is nobody behind us. It’s very important for the secondary to tackle and Coach Vic makes that be known.”
Bryce Callahan Highlights
Bryce Callahan’s roster status with the Broncos
Callahan is your starting slot corner and very likely the second-best defensive back on the roster. He’s that good in my opinion and will be an excellent addition to Vic Fangio’s Denver Broncos defense.
With Harris likely primarily playing outside now, Callahan will take over his slot duties and there shouldn’t be much if any drop off in efficiency there. He thrived last season in Fangio’s defense who also had current Broncos Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell coaching the Bears defensive backs.
Whenever you have 50 touchdown man Patrick Mahomes and a veteran like Phillip Rivers in your division you need solid cornerback play to help slow down their high powered passing offenses. A player like Callahan defending the slot is a big step forward in achieving that goal, especially with the importance of the slot in offenses these days.
I expect Callahan to continue his breakout career with the Broncos and hopefully make a name for himself in the Mile High City.