Bears GM Ryan Pace is getting quite thrifty in how he continues to create salary cap wiggle room for future expenditures.
Check it out:
Source: the Bears have converted $7M of OT Charles Leno’s base salary into a signing bonus, creating $5.6M in cap space. Extra financial flexibility for Chicago to use as 53-man rosters take shape.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 21, 2019
ESPN’s Field Yates hears from a source who informs him Chicago has converted $7 million from left tackle Charles Leno Jr.’s base salary into a signing bonus. It’s a move that creates an estimated $5.6 million in cap space. If we were to use OverTheCap.com’s estimated effective salary cap space as our guide, restructuring Leno’s deal bumps the Bears’ cap space to $22.1 million. That would put the Bears among the 10 teams with the most salary cap space heading into the 2019 season. But more importantly, it would position the team to line up some important extensions.
Let the speculation begin!
Another way to look at these restructures, as Bears fans get nervous about 2020 cap space
The move creates $5.6M in space in 2019, space that can be rolled over to 2020. Obviously there is a new $1.4M signing bonus proration in 2020, so basically Pace created $4.2M in 2020 room
— Brad_OTC (@BradOTC) August 21, 2019
— Jeff Dickerson (@DickersonESPN) August 21, 2019
The expectation is that the Bears used Leno’s conversion to create space for an extension to be handed to fellow offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. The Pro Bowl center is moving to left guard this season and is in the final year of his rookie deal. But no matter which position he plays, Whitehair figures to be well compensated with his next contract.
Back in April, we explored what a Whitehair extension could look like when signed. The Bears were simply exploring a position swap for the 2016 second-round pick, so we viewed the extension possibility as something that would either make him the NFL’s highest-paid center or one of the league’s highest-paid guards. The folks at Spotrac.com calculated Whitehair’s market value at $11.3 million per season, which would place him as the second highest-paid guard behind Andrew Norwell ($13.3M AAV), but ahead of Gabe Jackson ($11M AAV). In any case, that sound you heard was Whitehair preparing to cash in in a big way.
Of course, Whitehair isn’t the only contract situation to keep tabs on now that the Bears have some extra money to play with as we race toward the start of the regular season.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan could be in line for an extension. Trevathan is a leader on the field and in the locker room, but is also an excellent tag-team partner in the middle with Roquan Smith in the middle of the Bears’ defense.
Chicago could also be clearing money for a free agent kicker, just in case one hits the market at the end of the preseason.
Don’t expect the Bears to go hog-wild with extensions at the moment. They still need to keep some of their powder dry knowing that safety Eddie Jackson, running back Tarik Cohen, and quarterback Mitch Trubisky are eligible to sign extensions after this season. Clearing cap space now is most likely going to help the team make moves in the short term, but don’t think Pace and his gang don’t have the long road mind when making this deal.