Here's How the Bears Can Have as Much as $53 Million in Cap Space to Use This Offseason

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Here’s How the Bears Can Have as Much as $53 Million in Cap Space to Use This Offseason

Chicago Bears

From 2013 until 2020, the NFL’s salary cap increased by at least $10 million each year. And league officials were planning for another sizable jump in 2021. But pandemic-crunched revenues during the 2020 season led to a significant cut to the cap. So instead of another notch, the cap was knocked down a few pegs.

A year later, things appear to be on the up-tick again as NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero reports the 2021 cap projects to be $208.2 million. That represents an increase of $25.7 million from the 2021 cap of $182.5. Additionally, it is a $10 million boost from where we were in 2020. In other words, the NFL’s salary cap projects to be back on track. And that means revenue streams are open again and the positive impact of fans being back in the stands is being felt in a positive way.

And here’s the payoff…

What’s Up with the Bears’ Cap Situation, Anyway?

Using as our guiding light, the Bears have $26,308,726 in available cap space. The site has a calculator tool that makes it easy to (1) make cuts, (2) see how they could impact the cap, and (3) provide additional perspective to our conversation. I’d encourage you to give it a whirl if you’re so inclined.

There is so much to sort through, so let’s get into possible Bears cuts.

Post-June 1 Cut Candidates

Sensible Cuts

•   C/G Cody Whitehair ($8.1M post-June 1)

•   LB Danny Trevathan ($3,288,235 post-June 1)

Alternative Options

•   S Eddie Jackson ($6.1M post-June 1)

Drafting Cody Whitehair goes in the “good moves” section of Ryan Pace’s transaction folder. And Whitehair’s extension wasn’t awful at the time it was given out. However, multiple restructures of the extension and a slip in Whitehair’s production last season aren’t making for a great situation. Whitehair will play in 2022 in his age 30 season and is under contract through 2024. Cutting him before June 1 would lead the Bears to lose $200,000 in cap space while taking on a dead money hit of $12.5 million. Egads! That’s no fun. But a post-June 1 cut would create $8.1 million and spread the $4.2 million cap hit over multiple years.

As for Danny Trevathan, a pre-June 1 cut would cause the Bears to lose $3,205,515 *AND* take on a dead money hit of $8.295 million. In other words, a traditional cut would be a double-whammy of bad decisions.

We have no idea how this regime feels about Eddie Jackson. And even though parting ways with Jackson *THIS* offseason is a long-shot, doing so with a post-June 1 designation creates $6.1 million in space to use later.

Potential Cap Savings: Teams can make just two post-June 1 cuts, so the Bears would have to choose wisely here. Cutting Whitehair and Trevathan would create $11,388,235 in cap space. It wouldn’t be usable until after June 1. But it could be worth it.

Inspired by Scheme and Regime Change

Sensible Cuts

•   NT Eddie Goldman ($6,660,407)

Alternative Options

•   QB Nick Foles ($3M)

•   DL Angelo Blackson ($2.1M)

•   LB Jeremiah Attaochu ($1.9M)

Eddie Goldman is the most obvious cut choice. Goldman didn’t play in 2020, citing COVID concerns. A year later, he came back to the Bears — but it was like pulling teeth. Remember, he didn’t show up to mandatory mini-camp and his status for training camp was in doubt until July. I doubt a new regime wants to deal with that potential headache, especially after a down year in production. All that to say that we might’ve seen the last of Goldman in a Bears uniform.

Same can be said about Nick Foles, who went from savior of the QBs room in 2020 to third-stringer a year later. The Bears have enough cap space as to where they don’t need to part ways with Foles. And if Justin Fields likes having Foles in the quarterbacks room, the front office shouldn’t rock the boat.

Jeremiah Attaochu and Angelo Blackson were given light multi-year contracts by Pace in the final year of his deal. Both were brought on to be a part of a 3-4 defensive front, but a change in schematics puts both players’ futures in question. Attaochu is a pass-rushing linebacker by trade, while Blackson plays that 3-4 defensive lineman role. The Bears could cut either (or both) and create $4 million in cap space.

Maximum Cap Savings: Parting ways with everyone in this section feels like a large ask. But if the Bears were willing to pull the plug, doing so would create another $13,660,407 in cap space.

The One That Would Tug at Your Heart-strings

•   RB Tarik Cohen ($2.25M)

At the peak of his powers, Tarik Cohen was one of the most fun Bears players to watch. Unfortunately, an ACL tear in September 2020 caused him to miss 13 games (and the playoff loss) in 2020, as well as the entire 2021 season. And because the NFL is a business, I wonder if a new front office would  move Cohen’s contract off their books for some cap savings.

Potential Cap Savings: Moving on from a popular player is never easy. And cutting someone recovering from injury feels cold and heartless. Although, I suppose the Bears could work out something like they did with Zach Miller. I’m rooting for the human touch to pull through. But this is the NFL we’re talking about, and $2.25 million in cap space isn’t insignificant.

Restructure Candidates

One trend that popped up annually during the Ryan Pace era was the restructuring of contracts as a way to manipulate the cap. We saw it with Khalil Mack and Cody Whitehair (among other examples). And while the Bears have needs and could use this to generate more spending money for this offseason, I’d strongly advise against going down this path. I struggle to find a good reason to kick the can down the road in a way that would hand-cuff your franchise’s future flexibility. Sure, the Bears have needs. But they have more to lose when it comes to their long-term plans than they have to gain for short-term enjoyment.

In the End …

To be clear, this exercise didn’t explore every cut candidate. Instead, we were wanting to focus on the ones that made most sense. With that in mind, the Bears could create an additional $15,910,407 in cap space with the cuts above. Want to tack on a Khalil Mack trade for good measure? That brings the number to $22,060,407. And for the sake of this conversation, that number could grow to $33,660,407 if it is a post-June 1 trade. We could go hog-wild with this, but won’t. .

At the end of the day, a most realistic route would get the Bears to $46,946,961 under the cap with the following moves: Two post-June 1 cuts (Whitehair, Trevathan) and a handful of traditional cuts (Cohen, Goldman, Blackson, Attaochu). If we were wanting to get frisky, we’d mention how a Khalil Mack trade would boost that number to $53,096,061. But that doesn’t feel reasonable in this moment. However, it would be amusing to see the fallout from that landmark decision. After all, every bit adds up.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.