The Chicago Bears are almost halfway into the 2013 NFL season. After a disastrous Week 7 outcome, many fans are quickly looking to the upcoming offseason for optimism. At 4-3, the Bears’ season is not over, but is in serious peril.
The Bears should go into the upcoming offseason with just over $43 million in available cap space. With seven picks and a ton of pending free agents about to hit the market, some are not feeling very optimistic about the future. I, on the other hand, am very excited and I am about to show you why.
After the season, Chicago has a total of 32 pending free agents. Couple that with $45 million in cap space, and it seems there will be an issue. Taking a closer look, this is surely not the case. In my mock off eason for the Bears, I am going to show you how a few cuts and an extension or two can allow close to an extra $20 million in space.
Players on the short list (cuts):
Defensive end Julius Peppers — $18.1 million ($13.9 million base)
Running back Michael Bush $3.85 million ($2.8 million base)
Receiver Earl Bennett $2.4 million ($2.3 million base),
Punter Adam Podlesh $1.825 million ($1.4 million base)
Receiver Eric Weems $1.6 million ($1.0 million base)
Total: cap savings of $21.4 million
With $43 million originally set aside, Phil Emery will add another $21.4 million onto this to total $64.4 million in cap space. Now that Emery is done cutting, it’s time to extend his no. 1 receiver for a few more years. Brandon Marshall is due $9.3 million ($9.1 million base) in the final year of his contract, and the Bears can save a million or more simply extending the soon-to-be 30-year old out another four years for $44 million.
Set cap after cuts and restructure: $67.4 million.
Now it is time to focus on re-signing key players. The biggest player and question mark is obviously Jay Cutler and after yet another injury for the fourth straight year, Emery and company has a tough decision to make. Head coach Marc Trestman is known as a quarterback guru and may want to take his chances in the draft. As most know, this is not a decision to be taken lightly, so I present my solution to a tricky situation.
QB Jay Cutler — franchise tag ($15 million): Past injuries have to be a concern at this point, so this is the ultimate ultimatum — tag your QB and draft a prospect.
CB Tim Jennings — (3/15) $4 million ’14 cap hit: Jennings has played well and has been more consistent in 2013, and the Bears aren’t ready to part with both corners with this unique situation.
S Charles Tillman — (2/14) $6 million ’14 hit: your eyes do not deceive you, I have Tillman going to safety in 2014. After injuries and safety issues, Tillman should be a good option.
LG Matt Slauson — (3/10) $3 million ’14 hit. Arguably the best lineman so far. A no-brainer.
K Robbie Gould — (3/10) $3 million ’14 hit. Gould’s age is getting up there, but his leg is as strong as it has ever been. He’s been with the franchise his whole career, I think he finishes it out.
S Major Wright — (2/3) $1 million ’14 hit. Wright has struggled. It’s a depth and competition signing at worst.
LB James Anderson — (1/2) $2 million ’14 hit. Anderson has been arguably the team’s best linebacker through seven games. This move gives Khaseem Greene another year to develop.
DT Henry Melton — (5/27) $5 million ’14 hit. Melton was having a down year before a torn ACL ended his season. He could take a one-year gamble contract or take a value contract with his value down. I’ll take the latter.
DE Corey Wootton — (4/16) $4 million ’14 hit. Wootton has been the most undervalued member of this defense this year, and his versatility goes a long way as well. It’s a no-brainer in my opinion.
DT Nate Collins — (1/1) $1 million ’14 hit: Collins offers great value and coming off an ACL injury, he should be easily had.
WR Joe Anderson, FB Tony Fiammetta LS Patrick Mannelly — (2/2) 1 million ’14 hit: All good players that are of value to keep on this team.
CB Sherrick McMannis — (3/4) $1 million ’14 hit: McMannis has been an understated tool on special teams and brings good value. The Bears should lock him up while they can.
CB Zach Bowman (2/3) $1 million ’14 hit: Valuable depth and special teams keeps him here.
S Craig Steltz (1/1) $1 million ’14 hit: Steltz offers good depth and special teams help.
LB Blake Costanzo (2/3) $1 million ’14 hit: Constanzo also offers not only good depth, but is a key special teams player.
Total spent: $48 million
Remaining cap space: $17.4 million
With all cuts and re-signings out of the way, my next installment will show free agency, the draft and the depth chart.