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Gambling on themselves pays off for pair of Chicago Bears defenders

March 16, 2018

It took awhile, but cornerback Prince Amukamara’s gamble on himself finally paid off with the three-year, $27-million contract he signed Wednesday to return to the Bears.

The same strategy also worked for his teammate, outside linebacker Sam Acho.

Amukamara bet on himself by signing a one-year deal with the Jaguars in 2016 after five years with the Giants, who drafted him in the first round (19th overall) in 2011. Despite starting 12 games in Jacksonville, Amukamara still didn’t get the multi-year contract he was seeking, so he signed another one-year deal for 2017, this time with the Bears.

A preseason ankle injury kept the 6-foot, 202-pound corner out of the first two games, but he worked his way back to start the final 12 games for a Bears defense that was No. 7 in passing yards allowed last year, and also finished No. 9 in points and No. 10 in total yards allowed.

This time Amukamara’s bet paid off.

“I was telling my wife that it felt like being drafted all over again,” Amukamara said. “The feeling (of) betting on myself every year -- with that comes a lot of risk. But I was willing to take that, and I’m just really excited that it all worked out.”

Although he had the opportunity to test the market in free agency, Amukamara was focused on returning to a stout defense that he believes is primed for success but hasn’t yet peaked.

“I told my agent that Chicago was the place I wanted to be,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear from any other teams, unless it’s Chicago. There’s just something about here that felt like home. It had to do with a lot of the guys and what we had going last year, and just really wanted to finish this thing out.

“I felt like we were scratching the surface last year. We were in some games (six of the Bears’ 11 losses were by eight points or less), we won some games, and just really wanted to build off that. The fact that Kyle (Fuller) is staying here helped that, too. I think we work pretty well together.”

Fuller, the Bears’ other starting cornerback, received the transition tag, which guarantees him $12.971 million this year, although both sides are interested in working out a long-term deal.

Acho, like Amukamara, is a seven-year veteran, and he also got a bit of security after playing on one-year deals in each of the past three seasons for the Bears. He re-upped for $7.5 million on a two-year hitch after starting 12 games in 2017, when he stepped into the void created by injuries and helped maintain a high level of performance.

“There are a lot of factors that go into signing a contract and picking a team,” Acho said. “Some of those factors include the team being a good fit (and finding) a place I feel where I could go and we could win, (where) I could go and make an impact on the field and make an impact in the community. Those are three of the top things that I cared about.”

Acho was the Bears’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award each of the past two seasons for his work in the community. The seven-year veteran was visiting the Louisiana State Penitentiary with members of his church and with Bears chairman George McCaskey when he agreed to the new deal.

Acho told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that he had drawn interest from the Seahawks, Texans and Rams before re-signing with the Bears.

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