Discussing cash flow and the Chicago Bears is a sore subject for some fans. And when it comes to the salary cap, things can get especially testy when cap space (or the lack of it) comes up in conversation. But with the regular season opening up later this week, we find ourselves at the crossroads of the right place and time to reset that conversation.
So … At the start of the week, OverTheCap.com had the Bears at an estimated $1,945,383 *OVER* the cap as of September 5. Only the Titans ($5,587,961) and Giants ($6,012,670) were in worse shape than Chicago entering the week. That said, we’re finally getting some clarity on the Bears front after some fancy maneuvering.
For example, ESPN’s Field Yates reports that the Bears turned $5.825 million of Jimmy Graham’s salary into a signing bonus. And by using the void years cap trick, the front office found $4.66 million in cap space. As things stand now, the Bears are in a better spot after the decision. OTC’s estimations have the Bears with $3,648,417 in available space as of today. Which, hey, that’s better than nothing! And it is certainly better than being in the red.
But there’s a “but” here. And it takes some nuance and deep breaths to get a more firm grip on it.
Although it’s nice to have some additional short-term cap space/maneuverability if needs pop up before or during the season, putting yet another contract with void years on the books for the future complicates things for the Bears (and somewhat unnecessarily).
For instance, the Bears have $12.8M worth of dead cap hits coming their way with players coming off the books after this season. That’s what happens when Graham ($4.66M) joins Andy Dalton ($5M), Germain Ifedi ($1.5M), Tashaun Gipson Sr. ($750K), Jesse James ($487.5K), and Damien Williams ($375K) in the dead cap club. And to think, that number could balloon to $29.7M with future cuts of Robert Quinn ($9.3M) and Nick Foles ($7.67M). Not quite what you want when your organizational focus should be turning to building around Justin Fields. Instead, the Bears are kicking the can down the road and borrowing money from the future to pay for a fleeting moment in time. Frankly, I’m not sure this’s the best mode of operation.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate GM Ryan Pace acting as if the cap is a myth. I admire his attempts to follow in his mentor Mickey Loomis’ footsteps in that regard. But I’m uncomfortable with taking money from the future (Justin Field’s team) and investing it in a team that still has question-marks at cornerback, receiver, and offensive tackle. Think about it. All of this has been done to bring in a place-holder QB, retain a tight end who was in on less than 50 percent of offensive snaps in 5 of the team’s last 7 games, and an offensive lineman who grades out better at his old position (right guard) than the one he’ll be manning this year (right tackle). All things considered, that uneasy feeling about the state of the cap is understandable.
For the record, I have no problem with players cashing these checks. I’m all for getting paid while you can, especially in the NFL where careers are far too short. But I take issue with how this front office handles asset management. Specifically in terms of cap space and draft capital. In this particular instance, the two go hand-in-hand. Chipping away at future cap space while also not having a first-round pick next year just doesn’t compute for me. Could it be worse? Yeah, sure, but it shouldn’t already be this bad.
And I simply can’t shake the Bears chipping away nearly $7 million in 2022 cap space in the nearly four months that have come and gone since writing this piece painting portrait of a brighter cap future. Eating away at a big number with void deals feels counter-productive for both the short-and-long term. Here’s hoping it doesn’t cost the Bears down the line.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Believe me when I say I want to dream on the Bears having more than $42 million in cap space in 2022. That is a sizable amount to re-focus building efforts around Justin Fields. Having $42 million in available cap space could go a long way toward signing tackle help, upgrade at receiver, and re-sign some combination of popular veterans (Akiem Hicks?), productive young players on the rise (Roquan Smith, Bilal Nichols?), or playmakers still in their prime (Allen Robinson II?). But instead, there is less money to play with because of a decision to pay up later when a hard swallow and cut elsewhere could’ve done a number to avoid this mess.
Heads up to a huge Bears promo from Caeasar’s! Check out the particulars:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 7, 2021