At the most basic levels, I kinda sorta dig the Jesse James signing.
James could be a solid TE3 for the Bears. Someone who can excel as a blocker, be useful in the red zone, and start in a pinch if someone ahead of him on the depth chart gets hurt. At minimum, James’ arrival brings competition to the position beyond what is happening at the top with Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham. Don’t get me wrong. This won’t be the sexiest competition at camp. But seeing JP Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Scooter Harrington, and James duke it out for reps will be fun to follow.
HOWEVA … I just don’t understand why this deal had to be this way:
Per sources, new Chicago Bears tight end Jesse James’ deal is for one-year, $2.15M max value
$1.65M fully guaranteed
Three void years added on for salary cap purposes
— Brad Spielberger (@PFF_Brad) July 26, 2021
A one-year deal worth as much as $2.15 million and includes just $1.65 million in guarantees won’t break the bank. Nor will it limit the Bears in a substantial way. But it is odd to see the Bears clear a roster spot, create $1.2 million of salary cap space, and use it on a third tight end. Meanwhile, the team just let a starting-caliber cornerback it reportedly had interest in sign elsewhere for a deal in the same ballpark. Sure, Steven Nelson’s one-year maxes out around $4 million. So, it’s a little more total money. But in the grand scheme of things, I struggle to understand how a third TE is more of a priority to Chicago than a cornerback with ample starting experience. That might be what befuddles me the most.
And then there’s this: The James signing represents the latest in an odd trend. It’s another one-year deal with built in void years. Quarterback Andy Dalton and right tackle Germain Ifedi have deals that also have void years. And even though I understand the point of void years being a vehicle to manipulate the cap, I can’t grasp why the Bears continue to push money into the future. This franchise might be better off taking the one-year hit in what isn’t expected to be a go-for-it year. Kicking the can down the road for this specific Bears team — one coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons and is about to pivot to a future with a QB on a rookie-scale deal — simply doesn’t make sense.
Maybe there are cap considerations I’m not taking into account right now. I suppose that is a real possibility. But creating contracts with void years for third-string tight ends doesn’t sound like the best use of cap space. Nothing like cutting into future spending for reasons beyond my comprehension. But, hey, maybe the cap will grow leaps and bound beyond what projections show. At least, that’s what Pace and the Bears should hope happens.