CONGRATS TO MICHAEL SAM
Michael Sam coming out as gay prior to the NFL Combine and NFL Draft is a rare moment of human courage that deserves to be celebrated. If you don’t believe Sam’s decision will impact his draft status, you’re living on Mars. A large contingent of individuals inside NFL locker rooms – many of whom are greatly influenced by religious beliefs – deplore homosexuality. Teams will avoid drafting Sam to avoid the “drama” associated with his presence in the locker room. The young man does not have an easy road but heroism is rarely easy.
PEPPERS THE KEY DECISION
It is impossible to analyze the coming Chicago Bears off-season without knowledge of how Phil Emery plans to handle the Julius Peppers situation. From Brad Biggs in the Tribune:
Peppers carries a salary-cap figure of $18.183 million, but cutting him comes with implications and doesn’t improve a defense short on depth and talent at end. There will be options in free agency, but it’s premature to say which players will make it to the marketplace, where Peppers would stack up as a solid short-term option coming off a 71/2-sack season….
Unless the Bears plan to drop Peppers, which would leave $8,366,668 in dead cap space, and pursue one of the top free-agent options, there isn’t a simple solution.
Releasing Peppers would free up $9.8 million in cap space, or he could be counted as a post-June 1 cut, with the dead money equally divided between 2014 and 2015, freeing up nearly $14 million in cap space. More significant right now than cap space, which the Bears can create if necessary, is the unknown cash budget after signing Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings, guard Matt Slauson and kicker Robbie Gould.
I would keep Peppers at a fair price. As bad as the Bears defense was in 2013, they would have been infinitely worse without him. And if the club is serious about adopting a hybrid-style attack, that approach might be perfectly suited to a pass rusher like Peppers.
TILLMAN’S MAN OF THE YEAR SPEECH
It will be a sad day if I ever watch Charles Tillman play football in a different uniform. In the modern era, Peanut has been my favorite Chicago Bear by a large margin. (Brian Urlacher is not even close.) Here is his acceptance speech of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.