In the current environment, it’s extremely difficult to project what’s going to happen on the transaction front in any sports league. We see it right now with the MLB and NBA offseasons, and we’re about to see it with the NFL Trade Deadline.
On the one hand, the NFL’s season is proceeding along a relatively normal timeline, so there isn’t an impact there. On the other hand, COVID-related impacts to players (possible depth issues or surprising absences that could pop up) and financial questions (is the cap gonna shrink next year? are revenues going to recover by the second half of the season or next year?) could give you opposite answers about expected activity levels, depending on how you frame them.
For example, that financial stuff? It might not lead to less activity. In fact, some are hearing it’ll lead to more activity:
The NFL trade deadline has been a non-event for ever. Some feel that it could be different this year as teams want to dump salaries because the cap lowers in ‘21
— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) October 23, 2020
I could certainly see it. The 2021 cap may drop to just $175 million by league agreement with the players ($190 million if revenues are stronger than expected – so, either way, it’s dropping from this year’s $198.2 million). So a lot of teams are going to be looking ahead and know they have substantial work to do.
For teams in a really tight bind looking ahead to next year, right now might be your best available chance to send out a contract with 2021 cap implications to a competitive, needy team that has a lot of cap space for next year. You might even be willing to accept a nothingburger return to make it happen, and you might even, yourself, be a competitive team but feel like you’ve gotta maneuver now while you have the chance.
I’ll tell you right now, though, that the Bears are just as likely to fall into that latter category than the acquisition category (which is to say, neither is likely). Recall, the Bears already project to be over next year’s $175 million cap by nearly $8 million. They’re under by enough at the moment in 2020 to roll over about that same amount to next year, but that assumes no additions this year and no offseason movement. Sure, a restructuring here and a cut veteran there is going to help the Bears – I’m not worried about their cap situation yet – but they are not a team that is in an obvious position to take on a new 2021 cap hit in order to get that player’s performance at this year’s Trade Deadline.
If the Bears make any deadline moves, I’d expect them to be smaller-dollar, short-term moves. Every dollar they acquire now reduces their rollover for 2021, so picking up a guy with cap implications this year AND next year is something of a double-whammy. I just don’t see it, and that’s why signing a free agent like Quinton Spain on the cheap makes so much sense.
As for selling off any pieces, I also don’t really see the obvious spots where the Bears have the depth/redundancy to do it, and where it would make a meaningful impact on the books.
The Trade Deadline is 3pm CT on Tuesday, November 3.