Bears' Nick Kwiatkoski Proved His Place

(670 The Score) Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara once called linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski a "hidden gem." That isn't the case anymore.

Kwiatkoski played his best football late in 2019 and is set to become a free agent this March, when he's expected to draw plenty of interest. If the Bears want Kwiatkoski back, they'll likely have to match some enticing offers around the league.

"He's a guy that took major advantage of the opportunities given to him," coach Matt Nagy said of Kwiatkoski.

Kwiatkoski, 26, played in all 16 of the Bears' games, starting in eight -- including the final seven contests after Danny Trevathan suffered a season-ending elbow injury.

Kwiatkoski posted a career-best 68 tackles with three sacks, an interception and a safety, which he recorded in the Bears' 21-19 win over the Vikings in their season finale. He also was strong in coverage, allowing 4.0 yards per target, the second-lowest mark among all qualified defenders, according to Pro Football Focus.

For Kwiatkoski, there was personal pride in sustaining the high level of play that Trevathan brought to the defense.

"Honestly, it's hard to look back," Kwiatkoski said. "But, yeah, I am. It's one of those things, I'm proud that I could step in and not have a drop-off."

Kwiatkoski didn't speculate about his future during the 2019 season, and he still wasn't at that point after the season finale. But he believes this offseason will bring lucrative opportunities after he took advantage of his chance to prove himself in Chicago.

The Bears have a decision to make at inside linebacker, where both Kwiatkoski and Trevathan are set to be free agents. Kwiatkoski is expected to sign a more lucrative deal than Trevathan, who's four years older and has struggled to stay healthy. 

Before the Bears encounter a decision on Kwiatkoski's future, they're appreciating how he forged this path ahead.

"He's a talented player," Nagy said. "And on a football team, you always want to make tough decisions. That means you have good players."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.