Now that the dust has settled and the Chicago Bears’ initial 53-player roster has been unveiled, we can start picking around to see what the team has (and doesn’t have) at its disposal.
But before I can even get to that, I found myself gobsmacked by the data found in this piece from Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice, whose research shows the Bears are the oldest team in football.
This news is equal parts unsurprising and uninspiring. In fact, it’s something we have been discussing throughout the offseason. Even in the moments in which we highlight some of the team’s budding young players. And it isn’t going to help you feel much better if I share that the team is also one of the most expensive in football. This, too, has come up in conversation. Per spotrac’s spending calculations, the Bears are the NFL’s 10th most-expensive team. Chicago’s football team is spending $182.3 million on its active roster. That is a lot of money for an aging team coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons. When your team is spending this much, there should be hope when looking up and down the roster. Instead, a cursory glance at the 2021 Bears is full of red flags and concerns. And at a variety of important positions, too. Ouch.
Here’s the bad news (as if you were desiring more). This is clearly a not-so-good place to be for the Bears. Being old, expensive, and staring at the treadmill of mediocrity is unofficially where The Bad Place resides during the NFL season. What makes this feel worse is that it’s all too similar to where this franchise was when GM Ryan Pace took over in 2015. In January 2015, the Bears were just $1.681 million under the cap for the 2014 season. And while Pace should get credit for navigating the franchise through the mess Phil Emery left behind, that we’re right back where we began six years later is problematic.
At this point, you’re probably looking for the good news. And here it is:
You’re probably familiar with Justin Fields by now. What you might not be totally up-to-speed on is the value of having a quarterback on a rookie-scale deal when it comes to team-building. For instance, the Bears will go from spending $15.1M on quarterbacks in 2021 to dropping salaries for Andy Dalton and Nick Foles by the wayside. Moreover, the Bears could go from being over the cap by $18M at the end of this football season to being $39 million under the cap by the start of the next league year. And that is *BEFORE* entertaining cuts for older and higher-price players. Imagine if the Bears cap situation reaches OTC’s May projections of getting $49.793M under the cap. That would totally be drool-worthy.
To be clear, the Bears won’t be out of the woods just by flipping the calendar and clearing some dead weight off the books. They still would have to make ample signings, especially with another year of having limited draft capital on the horizon. But things are pointing toward a place where Chicago’s football team can position itself to be younger and more cost-efficient in the years to come. It’s just that navigating through this mess is going to be a journey.