With the official start to the NFL’s 2014 season on the horizon, the Chicago Bears are continuing to lock up as many players as they can before they hit the market as unrestricted free agents. Already having re-signed 10 players since this past December, the Bears increased that total to 12 on Sunday after agreeing to new one-year deals with defensive tackle Nate Collins and quarterback Jordan Palmer.
The signings of Collins and Palmer gives the indication that Chicago feels that their chances of retaining defensive tackle Henry Melton and quarterback Josh McCown are very slim. Both Melton and McCown will be two of the most sought-after unrestricted free agents this coming Tuesday.
It has been speculated that both players are drawing some interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Melton will definitely feel at home playing in a defensive scheme in which he made the Pro Bowl in 2012 with Lovie Smith, who is Tampa Bay’s new head coach. As for McCown, the Buccaneers could use a seasoned veteran quarterback just in case quarterback Mike Glennon has a sophomore slump in 2014.
However, re-signing Melton and McCown isn’t completely out of the picture. The Bears’ financial status greatly depends on what they decide to do with defensive end Julius Peppers. As of right now, Chicago’s salary cap will be hit big time by Peppers’ $18.2 million for 2014. A significant restructuring of his contract or an outright release of the 34-year-old veteran will free up some much-needed dollars for a possible return of either Melton or McCown.
Even if the Bears do free up some cap space, it looks like they have already noticed the writing on the wall and that they could be facing a 2014 season without two of their best players.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.