The NFL Free Agent Market Will Probably be Flooded with Big Name Cap Casualties This Offseason

Even if a shrinking salary cap won’t bottom out as much as predicted, this offseason will still be an uphill climb for most organizations. A salary cap drop of more than $18 million means teams will have to work hard to get out of the red, cutting even more (and better) players to clear space than usual.

Sure, the term “salary cap casualty” gets thrown around a little too liberally for my liking, but good players *will be* on the chopping block for the sole purpose of clearing money off the books this offseason. So heed my warning when I say to brace yourselves for some high-profile names unexpectedly making it onto the open market – including, of course, from the Bears.

Over at NFL.com, Gregg Rosenthal dives into NFC and AFC cut possibilities. Rosenthal sorts out strong cut candidates, potential surprises, and players whose statuses will be worth monitoring this offseason. And for the Bears, Rosenthal lists two candidates for release: TE Jimmy Graham and RT Bobby Massie.

Graham, 34, was serviceable in his first β€” and perhaps only β€” season in Chicago. He caught eight touchdown passes in the regular season and scored the only touchdown in the Bears’ postseason loss to the Saints. More than that, Graham served as a tutor for rookie Cole Kmet. That mentorship isn’t inconsequential, but I doubt it’s enough to justify Graham’s 2021 salary.

According to OverTheCap.com, the Bears can cut Graham and create $7 million in cap space while incurring just a $3 million dead money hit. Considering the Bears’ needs at skill positions and their investment in Kmet, parting ways with Graham feels like a no-brainer.

The same can be said about Massie, the 31-year-old tackle who might’ve played his last game for the Bears in 2020. From 2016-18, Massie was a sturdy, reliable right tackle. He missed just two games in those seasons. And there was even a point in which he started 41 of 42 games over a three-year stretch. But because Massie finished the 2019 season on injured reserve, then missed eight games while on IR a year later, this feels like an obvious time to cut ties.

Should the Bears cut Massie, they could create $5.4 million in space. It’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing. And if they wanted to get creative with clearing space, the team could designate Massie as a post-June 1 cut. Using OTC’s cap calculator tool, doing so would create $8 million in cap space for 2021 with just a $1.3 million dead money hit. Again, it’s not a ton of space. But every bit helps.

And now, I find myself thinking about this tweet from a few days ago:

Teams are always monitoring the waiver wire for help. This year will be no different, except for the number of well-known names figures to be higher than usual.

Among the high-profile names Rosenthal lists *who could be of interest to the Bears* based on their offseason needs: Cameron Brace (TE), Kevin Zeitler (OG), Alex Smith (QB), Trailing Turner (OG), Ben Roethlisberger (QB), Eric Fisher (OT), Marcus Cannon (OT), David DeCastro (OG).

That’s a snapshot of who could be on the market. Ultimately, we could see a fair number of high-profile players getting cut between the start of the new league year. From there, we’ll see some taking short-term hits, signing one-year deals with contenders, then hitting the market in 2022. This seems like an opportune time to strike if you’re a team like the Bears. Or, you know, any other team putting all its eggs in 2021’s basket.

As if there was another way to follow a truly unprecedented season of football than with a wholly unpredictable offseason. Buckle up, my friends.

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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