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Sunday Data Entry: Understanding Where the Bears Currently Stand with the Salary Cap

| February 11th, 2018

The questions…

  • Where do the Bears now sit relative to the cap?
  • How much money do they have to work with?
  • How much can they create with cuts?
  • What players of their own do they have to re-sign before looking for improvements elsewhere?

I know the salary cap can be confusing, so I try to break it down step-by-step as much as possible here. If you’re not interested in the specifics, you can just jump to the end for general numbers. All salary data comes courtesy of Spotrac.


Current Cap

The table below shows the Bears’ current cap situation.

Every line is important for the math, but the bottom line, highlighted in yellow, tells you they have roughly $32.1 million to spend after accounting for the likely contracts of their upcoming draft picks.

If you care where that number comes from, I’ll explain below the table. If not, just keep that $32.1 million in mind and jump to the next section.

The gray areas up top are the current cap expenses the Bears have.

  • Their 51 players under contract have a combined cap hit of $143.8 million.
  • They have $1.2 million in dead cap (money previously paid to cut players that didn’t count under previous caps).
  • Their draft picks are estimated to use up $7.6 million of cap space.

This all adds up to $152.6 million. Those numbers are broken down on a player by player basis here.

The orange areas in the middle show the total cap the Bears have to work with.

The salary cap for the NFL is projected to be around $178 million, and they get to add the $6.7 million in cap space from 2017 that they didn’t use.

That means the Bears can spend up to $184 million in 2018 cap, leaving them $32.1 million in space.


Current Depth Chart

So as things currently stand, the Bears have about $32.1 million to work with (though you typically want about $10M in wiggle room entering training camp). Now it will be helpful to understand who they currently have on the roster, so you can start to figure out what positions need to be addressed with the money they have to spend. Thus I’ve put all 51 players in a rough depth chart below.

A few things stand out:

  • They really have nothing under contract at either WR or CB. There’s not a single player at either of those positions who should be starting, and just not many bodies period.
  • The starters everywhere else are more or less what they were last year. The Bears don’t have a ton of key free agents.
  • There are a bunch of guys on here who are overpaid relative to their spot on the depth chart. Let’s look at what the Bears can do about that.

Possible Cuts

There are a number of expensive veterans on the Bears roster who have not earned the large contracts they signed. Cutting them could free up a good amount of cap room, though it’s worth noting that would also create holes on the roster that need to be filled. I’ve identified nine players who could free up significant cap space if they were cut this offseason. They’re shown in the table below, along with the room they’ll clear if they are released.

I don’t know if general manager Ryan Pace will move on from all 9 of these players, but the Bears could have up to $85.1 million to spend-after accounting for draft picks – if he does. Regardless of how many of them get cut, the Bears will open up more room to work than they currently have.


Restricted Free Agents

Now let’s shift gears to look at players who were with the Bears in 2017 but are currently not under contract.

The Bears have a time in which they can re-sign these players before the rest of the league has a chance to get them, but that will eat into the money they have to bring in outside help.

We’ll start with restricted free agents, which are players who the Bears can give a small 1-year tender to (not guaranteed, so the player can be cut with no cap penalty). The Bears have four such players, all of whom were undrafted, which keeps their costs down. They are shown in the table below.

If the Bears give these players the tender amounts indicated above, other teams can make them an offer, but the Bears have the right to match it and the player has to stay in Chicago.

If the Bears are worried about losing a player, they can give them a 2nd round tender, which means any other team has to both give them a contract the Bears won’t match and give the Bears a 2nd round pick. This is a more expensive option ($2.75M last year), but seems likely to me for Cameron Meredith. They might do the same for Bryce Callahan, though I don’t know if they’re that attached to him. The other two seem likely to get these small tenders and compete for roster spots in training camp.


Unrestricted Free Agents

Now finally we get to unrestricted free agents, which are players the Bears have no special control over besides having the ability to re-sign them before free agency officially starts.

The Bears have 19 of these players (full list here), but the notable ones are listed below. I also gave their age and 2017 cap hits, which can be a general baseline for their 2018 cap hits for guys who aren’t coming off their rookie deals (so not Kyle Fuller, Cairo Santos, or Pat O’Donnell).

I’m not going to get too much into projected contracts now, but I did already take an in-depth look at what Kyle Fuller’s deal might look like if he re-signs with the Bears. These are all players who had a meaningful role with the Bears last year, and I’m sure that some of them will be back in 2018 as well.


Wrapping it up

So that’s where things stand right now.

  • The Bears currently have around $32 million in cap room after accounting for their draft picks, with a roster that is particularly lacking in CB and WR under contract.
  • They could create up to about $85M in room with 9 cuts, and have 4 restricted free agents and 19 unrestricted free agents to think about re-signing before free agency starts.

I’ll let you play around with hypothetical moves and their cap implications from there, and will even tell you that Spotrac has a fun program set up where you can do just that fairly easily.

In one hypothetical, let’s say the Bears make all 9 cuts listed above, sign Meredith to a 2nd round tender, sign the other restricted free agents to unprotected tenders, and re-sign all of the free agents listed above for their 2017 cap hits (save Fuller, who we’ll project at $12 million, and Santos and O’Donnell for about $2M each). That would leave the Bears with most of their 2017 team intact, but somewhere around $45-50 million in cap space and all of their draft picks to improve the team.

I think this is a fairly realistic scenario, though I’m sure Ryan Pace won’t make exactly those moves for exactly that money. At this point, the exact dollars aren’t that important, but a general idea of where the Bears stand is. Even leaving about $10 million for in-season moves, they will end up with plenty of money to spend in free agency.

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  • leftcoastdave

    Nice show, JW.

    • BenderMcLugh

      We are lucky, thus us great content to understand this stuff

    • Thanks. One thing I should have put in but didn’t is that a lot of those 9 potential cuts have deadlines where more money becomes guaranteed if they’re still on the roster. I don’t know the exact dates, but generally before FA starts.

      • leftcoastdave

        I’m all for cutting them all but still have questions about Freeman. He has to sit out for six or eight games unpaid? Why not keep him in reserve? What am I missing?

        • CanadaBear

          Getting caught for doping two years in a row with the same team is a really bad look. They aren’t going to set themselves up for a third shit kicking.

          • And it sounds like he has brain problems and will likely retire.

          • CanadaBear

            That’s sad. Hope he was careful with his money.

          • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

            I’d guess he was not.

        • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

          I thought it was 10 games.

      • Lindsay

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  • CanadaBear

    Good stuff JW. Gonna be interesting. Overall, most of those 9 cuts are pretty much a given. I know the team (players and coaches) really like Willie so he might come back and Sitton is a toss up, the rest I think it’s pretty much fait acompli.

  • BearDown100393

    These cuts appear to be a given save perhaps an outside shot for Sitton and/or Young remaining (doubtful).

    Cutting is easier than replacing. Might look good on paper. But on the field could backfire.

    Time as always will tell.

    • Yeah, I don’t think we should cut some of them unless Pace has a def plan to upgrade them (like Sitton).

      Can’t rely on Long, so if you cut Sitton, we’ll be seeing Kush/Compton type guys protecting Trub in a new O.

      The OG/OT I like in FA is Pugh. If we get him, then yeah, cut Sitton by all means and ride Long until he breaks down again, then put in Kush. I can live with that.

      I don’t like drafting OGs in the top 10, so that should be off the table.

      • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

        I think Kush is a very viable starter. I’d like to see him get an offseason as a 1. And game reps/gelling, etc. I think he’s legit.

        • BearDown100393

          If he can stay healthy sure.

        • Same here. Ever since that Vikes game where Cutler dissected them behind solid blocking, I liked Kush.

          Was hoping for big things from him this season (since I knew Long would sputter out) but he tore his pectoral or something.

          I would consider him more of a 2nd string right now , but if we sign a Pugh type in FA, that I would be ok cutting Sitton or trading Long.

      • BearDown100393

        Kyle has had what….. 3 surgeries this off season? Love his character but….. rather concerned about relying upon a return of both form and durability.

      • leftcoastdave

        I’m sure Zach Fulton (C/G) and Albert Wilson (WR) are both FA targets Nagy knows from KC. With Kush, Compton and Jordan Morgan, and especially Coach HH, we don’t need that much in the OL category except for trying to land a T prospect in the mid rounds IMHO.

        • Jordan Morgan is def a guy who intrigues me.

          That’s why I don’t think we should draft an OG in the 1st.

          I bet Kush and Morgan could be good.

          RT is another matter. That’s why Pugh intrigues me. He can play OG or RT.

          • leftcoastdave

            I don’t think we should draft any O positions higher than the fourth round. You mentioned Trumaine Edmonds who would be a beast LB who can play in or out. CBs are garnering the highest pay in FA so dammit, draft a good one like Josh Jackson out of Iowa. Then there is the need for another QB. Try to get Nic Shimonek from Texas Tech who ran an air raid offense.

            This is the year for the O to learn to gel with a new system. Lots of good rookies taking the next step. I’d be giving Fangio all the love this year in both FA and the draft.

  • Going through the roster, lot’s of questions. The main theme being, do we settler for reliable but unspectacular (JAGs)?

    Players in this

    Glennon. Gone.
    Sanchize. How much do QB coaches get paid now? I still want a young QB to groom from the draft. If Nagy can’t coach up Trub without Sanchize, we’re in trouble anyways.

    HB Cunningham. One of the few Pace picks I liked. I prefer HB KRs. They tend to be explosive with hands, and Cunningham was that. I expected more from the return game, but he excelled esp on 3rd downs since Howard can’t catch.

    I’m always for 5th+ RB flyers cuz you never know, but Cunningham provides value and flexiblity. Plus, if Cohen can get better at returns and being a 3rd down back, Cunningham might become expendable.

    OG should’ve traded Long last season while he still had some value. Sitton should get restructured, but unless Pace signs a younger OG in FA (Norwell, Pugh) or drafts one (out of the 1st rd), might as well keep him. I don’t really expect Pace to splurge, so no need in downgrading the Oline to save $ we aren’t spending.

    TE. Did Sims do anything? Daniel Brown did as much and is cheaper.

    ILB Christian Jones and Kwiat are JAGs. I keep hoping Jones can become more – he flashes – but something is missing there. A brain? Kwiat, Timu, Anderson should all be gone too.

    OLB really thin there. McPhee looks busted up, but are we willing to ride with Acho/Young? The guy who intrigued was Houston. He looked good late in season.

    CB Callahan I like, as long as he stays healthy. I seriously don’t think we won a game when he didn’t play.

    Cooper has to be the most disappointing FA (aside from Glennon). Expected him to at least be servicable, but he was a liability out there. Get what we pay for.

    S. Have any of the backups shown anything? Carson, Hall, Bush were supposed to become things. They haven’t. Chuck em out.

    We’ve had plenty of time to evaluate a lot of these guys and most of them have underwhelmed. Time to clean house.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      I had the same thoughts on Houston. Seems like he would be perfect in the Fangio D but his stupidity got him injured.

      As far as S. Did any of those guys really play much to evaluate? Fox hurt us the last couple years with his reluctance to get the young guys some real experience.

      • BearDown100393

        Lamarr was admittedly in beast mode during his late season audition on the field.

        • He did look on a mission. Maybe he can replace McPhee.

          Not sure what’s going to happen with Young. He seems to be breaking down too.

          Of course, we have to draft an OLB.

          Acho is effective in spots.

    • BearDown100393

      Question – Was Kyle Long injured last off season?

    • leftcoastdave

      I cannot imagine not keeping Benny the Jet. The dude was awesome in pass protection and ran the screen better than anybody.
      With Sitton, $8m goes a long way. He’s good, but not that good and there are younger guys available. Let’s not forget the Harry factor.

    • SC Dave

      In the Jones/Kwiat thing, I think of them similarly guys like Compton… if we have someone better, cut them. Otherwise… I hate creating holes. Shit, we could end up with CD and Bostic again.

      Not sure Kwiat’s value on specials… I know he gets snaps there.

  • BerwynBomber

    Pederson you are all alone on O now.

    Wonder if Flip regrets taking that MIN position. Could’ve been OC at PHI, although of course impossible to foresee.

    • BearDown100393

      Nothing deconstructs a football program more than a Super Bowl victory.

  • willbest

    I would keep Bellamy as the #5 WR/gunner unless you think somebody else has both more upside as a WR and capable of performing ST. The top 3 WRs don’t usually play ST and White will be sucking up the #4 spot this season. You can’t really afford to get cute then with your #5 or 6. They have to be ST contributors. For the same reason I think McMannis stays too. Maybe they draft somebody in round 7 that wows them in camp, but you still bring those two to camp.

    • Agree. Both are sp teams maniac, which is what you want from 4rth WR/CB.

      Also, I keep hoping Bellamy can learn to catch, because if he ever does, he’ll be a beast.

      He flashed a bit late season.

      We all know what McMannis is.

      Pace just has to do better in finding 2nd/3rd stringers.

      For instance, he took a shot at Wright, Wheaton and Inman, but none of them really show upside (Bellamy actually has more upside, but he’s too inconsistent).

      I don’t think we have any CBs under contract. Crazy.

      Fuller, Prince and Callahan are good, but we need another upside CB cuz McMannis is def not the guy.

    • White is unlikely to make the 53 man roster, IMO

      • willbest

        I hope you are right, but they owe him 2 mil either way

        • leftcoastdave

          What we were all saying about Fuller last year, albeit without the injury history.
          Let’s hope White’s body has mended a bit and see what he can do with a real 2018 offensive scheme.

          • SC Dave

            Optimism is refreshing, to a point. But White couldn’t eat when they force-fed him.

          • leftcoastdave

            My suspicion is what he force fed himself to sculpt out that fragile body. Got him to first round, but like so many Bama draft picks, he’s all worn out.

          • CanadaBear

            Wasn’t he from VT?

          • Yeah, and only 1 yr at that. Before that, JUCO.

      • AlbertInTucson

        It would surprise me if he did.

        I thought he looked like he’d lost a step BEFORE the second injury.

        • SC Dave

          He looked like he never HAD a step to me.

          • AlbertInTucson

            i don’t believe White played a live down as a Bear before the first leg injury.

    • BearDown100393

      Pace needs to write off Kevin and move forward

    • leftcoastdave

      I love Bellamy. Dude is a team player who gives it his all and was what, the #2 receiver in yards this year? Obviously he is a top special teams player and great for the locker room.

      • SC Dave

        How do you know his presence in the locker room?

        • leftcoastdave

          Don’t you remember the dust up this season with another WR? Everybody had his back.

          • CanadaBear

            A guy that tries to steal his teammates girlfriends? I’m guessing they don’t really have his back.

    • SC Dave

      Do you really think Pace is so beholden to pride that he keeps White?

      • BearDown100393

        No

      • CanadaBear

        Unless White shows zero in training camp they will keep him. Guaranteed money.

  • AlbertInTucson

    49er rookie linebacker, and first round pick, Reuben Foster, tops off his rookie season with an arrest on domestic violence charges.

    SMH.

    • SC Dave

      Wasn’t that already a concern before the draft?

      • AlbertInTucson

        Nah, that couldn’t be.

        John Lynch is a genius, isn’t he?

        • SC Dave

          At Auburn, busted for pot (so what), associated with triple homicide… shades of Ray Lewis?

          • AlbertInTucson

            Also sent home from the combine for acting like a jerk.

            He was, ostensibly, the #1 rated ILB but almost fell out of the first round.

    • BearDown100393

      Vic is salivating.

    • leftcoastdave

      Dude’s brains are mush. He smashed it time and again as a heat seeking missile at Bama.

      Duh?

  • Irish Sweetness

    Only have one strong feeling re offensive roster – I don’t see the advantage in keeping Benny.
    If Jordan goes down, Benny cannot replace him in his role. Jordan needs the backup, not Tarik.

    And it seems Barkley is hotting up as an even greater prospect than Gurley/ Eliiot/Fournette – not that he would have to be … and the draft is RB deep.

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000914648/article/nfl-draft-5-prospects-that-will-make-biggest-impact-as-rookies

    • SC Dave

      Spending our first pick on an RB would be insane.

      • leftcoastdave

        No, stoopider than that. QB, maybe, Trumaine Edmonds if we do not trade down or Josh Jackson, but not no damn RB who we can find in the fourth or fifth round, assuming we need another at all.

    • Dis Guy Trublinsky (Johnnywad)

      A first rounder committed to the best and deepest position group on the roster? Nay.

    • leftcoastdave

      Benny the Jet is awesome.

      The dude knows how to pass protect and release and is the baddest screen receiver on the team.

      Benny we keep.

    • leftcoastdave

      Irish. How can you diss Benny?

      He’s a player giving it all up for the team. Great role player, great mentor.

      I see Nagy looking to find an RB who has better hands than Jordan Howard, but I don’t see Pace wasting top draft capital to do so. If he comes in the fourth, fine. Until then, the D needs all the focus this year in FA and top draft picks unless one of the first three is a QB.

    • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

      This is not the most insane thing Irish has ever posted on here, but it is pretty close.

      • Aliens playing poker in Vegas…

        • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

          That is believable. Have you seen some of those people at poker tables?

      • leftcoastdave

        Hey, give him a break. He loves that throw back to the time of the Galloping Gale and Sweetness who each were able to carry an offense. Today, as the Pack has shown, anybody at all can carry the rock if the D is worried about other things. That is what we all hope this O is evolving into. Multiple targets getting the ball anywhere the D ain’t, which can no longer be 8 in the box.

        • willbest

          pack run offense is shit when they aren’t playing the bears. it doesn’t matter because Rodgers is that good.

        • “Modestly” Huge Bears Penis

          I did say it is not the most insane thing.

    • If Pace didn’t waste 3 yrs of FA, we might have been able to go true BPA.

      But can’t do that anymore. Need another pass rusher, another Dlinemen, possibly 2-3 CBs, an ILB and 2 WRs.

      Our Oline isn’t that great either, and need that more to protect a fledging franchise QB.

      I’ll look into later rd RBs once draft season really kicks in.

      I’m pretty good at spotting them (FF champ!)

      I would probably try to replace Benny with a late rd RB who weighs around 210, is explosive, can return, and has soft hands cuz that’s pretty much Benny’s baseline.

      • leftcoastdave

        Benny don’t need replacing. He was a bright spot in a dismal O showing how a screen should be run and protecting the Biscuit better than anybody else back there.
        He’s a good fit for what Nagy is bringing.
        If it ain’t broke?
        Yup, draft a monster LB like Trumaine. Make that D matter even more while the O gels.

    • willbest

      fournette is not in a class above howard

      • leftcoastdave

        Fournette v. Howard in a bang for the buck contest is no contest.

        • leftcoastdave

          Also, Howard banged it out in a hurry up in Indiana like what we might be seeing more of next year.

        • willbest

          Well I wouldn’t put Howard above him as you are suggesting as Fournette is marginally better at catching the ball. But considering Howard averaged 0.2 YPC more than Fournette in the most predictable offense in the NFL there is no way to rank Fournette over him unless he was a beast in the passing game, which he isn’t. Zeke and Gurley are in another class however.

        • willbest

          Well I wouldn’t put Howard above him as you are suggesting as Fournette is marginally better at catching the ball. But considering Howard averaged 0.2 YPC more than Fournette in the most predictable offense in the NFL there is no way to rank Fournette over him unless he was a beast in the passing game, which he isn’t. Zeke and Gurley are in another class however.

  • EnderWiggin

    What are the chances that we see an “Iron Lotus” this week?

    • BearDown100393

      The North Koreans lose their heads when that is attempted.

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