GM Ryan Pace is like any sensible executive. He knows the future of the Chicago Bears lay with the NFL draft. However, with no 1st or 3rd round picks this year the chances of him filling every area of need for this roster are significantly reduced. This means one thing. The Bears will be active in free agency when the market opens in March. There is just one problem A team needs money and the Bears aren’t projected to have a lot of it.
Current projections have them holding the 7th-lowest amount of salary cap space going into this next league year. Keep in mind this is before they have to tackle the 22 in-house players who are set to become free agents. A list that includes Danny Trevathan, Nick Kwiatkoski, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Nick Williams. Those situations must be worked out before the team can even think about the unrestricted market.
So it stands to reason they might have to do a little more spring cleaning on their payroll before getting down to business. This leaves the big question. Exactly how much space can they clear up without being irresponsible?
Chicago Bears cap restructure can be significant if they wish
Pace’s mindset won’t be to spend wildly in free agency. His focus is just on trying to plug some holes. Not to overhaul his roster. So anybody planning for the Bears to make a huge splash should settle down. They will be active, but most likely during the second and third waves. That said, the competition for key players will be no less fierce and the Bears don’t have a lot of money to spare. So exactly how much extra space can they create?
Here is a rundown of every current contract that would gain them at least $1 million if removed.
- Leonard Floyd – $13.222 million
- Allen Robinson – $13 million
- Akiem Hicks – $8.8 million
- Kyle Long – $8.1 million
- Prince Amukamara – $8 million
- Cordarrelle Patterson – $5.25 million
- Taylor Gabriel – $4.5 million
- Charles Leno Jr. – $2.9 million
- Pat O’Donnell – $1.75 million
- Ben Braunecker – $1.5 million
- Adam Shaheen – $1.27 million
- Trey Burton – $1.05 million
With this list established, the next part is determining who on there is absolutely un-cuttable. This can either be because the player is actually really good and worth more on the roster or because the dead money hit would be far too large. The two most obvious are Robinson and Hicks, core players on offense and defense respectively. They aren’t going anywhere. Patterson just made first-team All-Pro on special teams. His exit is also unlikely. Pat O’Donnell had one of his best seasons punting. He’s safe too.
Then we have the contract guarantee protections. Cutting Leno would saddle the Bears with $7.4 million in dead cap and saddle them with a vacant hole to fill at left tackle. Not exactly an advisable move. So like it or not, he’s staying. Burton would hit them with a $7.5 million dead cap hit as well. For better or worse, those two will be back.
Who does that leave?
Floyd, Long, Amukamara, Gabriel, Braunecker, and Shaheen. All players who significantly underachieved in 2019 and have deals that are quite easy to escape should the Bears wish it. If Pace were to cut all six players, it would net the Chicago Bears a grand total of $36.592 million. According to Spotrac, the team is currently projected to have $20.924 million in initial cap space following the restructure of Kyle Fuller’s deal and Eddie Jackson’s extension.
This means they would have $57.516 million at the start of free agency. Not an insignificant amount of money. Would it actually go that far? Unlikely, but it at least offers an idea of how much wiggle room they actually have.