In a lot of ways, the 2020 season feels like the last of a true window the Chicago Bears opened up back in 2018. They still have one of the best defenses in the NFL and have at least improved their depth on offense. If they can get some out of the quarterback position, it’s possible they can make a run in the NFC. At least they better hopes so because the odds are things won’t be able to stay as they are in 2021. Why is that and what does it have to do with Kyle Fuller?
The answer is easy. Money.
Recent articles discussed the likely reality that the Bears could find themselves in a salary cap crunch next offseason. This due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic taking a bit hit to the NFL’s annual revenue. Former GM Michael Lombardi among others believe a noticeable dip in the cap ceiling is coming. Perhaps around $12-13 million less. That would give the Bears just $11-12 million in projected cap space according to Spotrac. Not ideal with 28 players currently set to become unrestricted free agents.
This is why it’s possible GM Ryan Pace will be forced into some tough decisions. Namely cutting or trading some established veterans to find precious cap space. That conversation starts with Fuller.
Kyle Fuller may be sacrificed to keep Bears payroll stable
Why him? There are a few reasons, but the most obvious is value. Trading or cutting Fuller would net the Bears $11 million in cap space. More than any other player on the payroll. He’s also probably the most tradeable. One because he isn’t too old (he’ll be 29 next offseason) and two because he’s playing his best football. Fuller has reached back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2018 and 2019 with 10 interceptions combined.
While he will carry a $20 million cap hit, that can be fixed by any team who trades for him by a contract extension.
A perfect example is Darius Slay. He was in his final contract year with the Detroit Lions. Rather than pay him a new deal, the team traded the 29-year old to Philadelphia for 3rd and 5th round picks. The Eagles then quickly signed him to a three-year extension, easing his cap hit. There are plenty of teams projected to have more than enough room to accommodate him.
Lastly there is what’s been done this offseason.
The Bears added a bunch of new faces to the cornerback position. Headlining them are CFL star Tre Roberson and 2nd round pick Jaylon Johnson. While improving the depth was the first priority for the team, one can also deduce they may have one eye towards next year. Making those aggressive moves now will put them in a better position to survive Fuller’s departure.
Johnson has a good chance to become a solid starter. Maybe Roberson can emerge to do the same. If not, the Bears can probably find somebody else in free agency or the draft to fill that void. Granted they may not be as good as Fuller, but this is the cold, hard reality of business in the NFL.