Let's Create EVEN MORE Cap Space for the Bears

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Let’s Create EVEN MORE Cap Space for the Bears

Chicago Bears

Part of me didn’t allow myself to think about Al-Quadin Muhammad as possibly being on the chopping block. The two-year, $8 million contract he signed with the Bears last wasn’t problematic or prohibitive. And it’s not as if this team is in a cap crunch.

However, it was clear that his production wasn’t good enough to keep him on the roster. Collecting just one sack, a single tackle-for-loss, and just three quarterback hits in 16 games while garnering nine starts isn’t cutting the mustard. So while Muhammad had a history with Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus and a number of defensive assistants from his time with the Colts, it turns out those connections weren’t enough to keep him around for a second season in Chicago. And now Muhammad’s cut has me thinking if any other Bears players could be cut this offseason.

There are some subtle “no one is safe” vibes emanating from this cut. This now has me thinking about a handful of players who are probably looking over their shoulders after seeing last night’s push notification from ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting Muhammad’s pending departure. Let’s discuss who might join Muhammad on the cut line.

Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick

The first name to come to mind is center/guard Lucas Patrick. Like Muhammad, Patrick was signed last offseason to a moderately priced two-year deal. Chicago brought Patrick in hoping he would bring an edge and versatility to a line that was needing both at this time last year. He was even hitting it off with Justin Fields in the early going. But injuries in training camp and the regular season limited his playing time, ultimately landing him on IR and undergoing season-ending surgery.

With that being said, maybe someone who was limited to just 7 games is a player whose contract the Bears pull the plug on. Cutting Patrick would create $3.9 million in salary cap space, while dinging the Bears with a dead money hit of $1.4825 million. Again, it’s not as if the Bears are starving for cap space. But parting ways with Patrick would make it clear to outsiders that the Bears have a spot to fill in the middle of their offensive line (in addition to having money to spend to fill that void).

Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair

The injury bug’s constant nibbling at the Bears will always bother me. And last year was no different, with a handful of offensive linemen missing time due to injuries. Cody Whitehair was one of them, which makes him a popular name among Bears fans looking at places where the team could trim some fat.

A knee injury sent Whitehair to IR last season and was a factor in him missing five games in 2022. Even when he was healthy, Whitehair didn’t look like the same player he was in recent years. The 30-year-old lineman is the longest-tenured Bears offensive player and has the flexibility to play both guard spots and center. That might be valuable to this regime, but how valuable is uncertain.

Moreover, it is possible that Whitehair’s experience and versatility could play a role in keeping him off the chopping block. After all, I feel as if cutting Whitehair now without having a replacement lined up would be short-sighted. Plus, OverTheCap.com estimates the dead money hit ($8.3 million) is still more than the potential cap savings ($5.8 million). Keep in mind, a post-June 1 cut would create $9.9 million in cap savings with a $4.2 dead money hit. In other words, the Bears could keep Whitehair through the offseason — or at least until a suitable upgrade is found.

Kicker Cairo Santos

Perhaps Cairo Santos’ extra point problems will nudge this regime into a different direction at kicker. We’ve seen other Bears regimes cut kickers for less. Just saying…

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus lists cut candidates for all 32 NFL teams and has Santos being the Bears player whose status could be up in the air. Releasing Santos would create $3 million in cap savings, which isn’t inconsequential. Meanwhile, the cost would come with a relatively light hit of just $1.5 million in dead money. Santos’ five missed PATs are cited in PFF’s piece. However, I didn’t realize Santos’ 48.5 kicking grade was the worst among 34 qualifiers who tried at least 10 kicks. Yikes. Maybe it is time to make a change.

Cut candidates lists are worth keeping an eye on this time of year. That old adage of one man’s trash is another’s treasure is proven to be true so often in the NFL. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bears being active in monitoring that market to help round out the roster. And after releasing Muhammad, I’m not going to be surprised if another notable name gets sent packing this offseason. My head is on a swivel!

Add it up!

To complete the exercise, I’ve used Over The Cap’s Bears salary cap calculator to create more cap space via the following cuts:

  • Lucas Patrick, OL — $3.9 million cap savings with a pre-June 1 cut
  • Cody Whitehair, OL — $9.9 million cap savings with a post-June 1 cut
  • Cairo Santos, K — $3 million cap savings with a pre-June 1 cut

It all adds up to an additional $16.8 million in cap space. And it would bring the Bears to $111,234,449 under the salary cap. Sure, we’ve created two holes in the starting lineup along the offensive line. But there was already an expectation that GM Ryan Poles would be active in the free-agent market to bolster the offensive line anyway. And considering how the Bears plucked Michael Badgley off the street to fill in (successfully, mind you!) for Santos, maybe we shouldn’t fear releasing a kicker who has otherwise been solid since re-joining the team. Being that this is the second offseason for this regime (and the first in which tearing down the roster isn’t a priority), the Bears being an unknown makes this a fun adventure.

I’ve long been bracing myself for an offseason of change. But now, I’m thinking changes could be more wide-spread than I was previously allowing myself to believe.

Author: Luis Medina

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