When the Saints released Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford on Friday, a fit with the Bears immediately came to mind.
Hours later, the Bears were reportedly showing an interest in pursuing Warford, a player whose presence could upgrade at right guard — which is widely viewed as a position of need in Chicago. But a day later, a new report surfaced and suggested the Bears were not believed to be in the mix for Warford’s services.
Considering the need, the fit, the May arrival in free agency that depresses price tags, and Bears GM Ryan Pace’s affinity for ex-Saints players, I struggled to comprehend why the team would back out of a pursuit.
And then NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport shared a tweet that made the lightbulb go off over my head:
From NFL Now: It's rare to see high-level free agents in May, but there are several this year — including G Larry Warford and DB Logan Ryan. pic.twitter.com/Jx8anic2Wo
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 11, 2020
“My understanding is he wants to make about $7 million — or roughly what he was supposed to make before the Saints released him,” Rapoport says. “It remains to be seen though at this point in May that he’s actually able to get that.”
Ah, yes. As the Wu-Tang Clan once famously taught in their hit record: “Cash rules everything around me. Get the money. Dollar, dollar bill, y’all.” Or simply: C.R.E.A.M.
Part of what might have made Warford an interesting option is that he could have been had a lower-than-expected cost. Because of what the Saints would have to pay him after the release, there is a line of thinking that teams would view Warford as a bargain thanks to the offsets in his previous contract. But if Warford insists on a deal that pays him what he would have been getting anyway, then the value goes out the window as the offsets no longer apply. Then again, $7 million AAV for a guard when guards such as Billy Turner, Zach Fulton, Richie Incognito, Brian Winters, and Jamon Brown are in that same ballpark figure makes me feel as if Warford’s ask isn’t unreasonable.
And then there’s the Bears’ current salary cap situation.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Bears have $8,765,098 remaining in available salary cap space. Meaning that signing Warford would take up a hefty chunk of change and cap room. But remember, there’s always money in the banana stand known as the NFL salary cap. Between contract extensions and restructuring, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to create the needed funds to bring in Warford (or any other offensive lineman, for that matter). And since the Bears would need to cut a player to get Warford onto the 90-man roster, that just represents another avenue in which the team can conjure up some space.
As Rapoport points out, it remains to be seen whether Warford will get the type of contract he demands. But since he hasn’t received it yet, we’ll continue to monitor the situation until he finds a new football home.