According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter the Bears are going to release veteran cornerback Tim Jennings in the first suprise, big name release of the preseason. It is a somewhat surprising move because Jennings had his entire $4.4 million base salary guaranteed for the year and the Bears will be on the hook for that money once they cut him. His guarantees do have offsets, meaning the Bears obligation will be reduced by the amount he is paid by another team, but most likely that amount will be for the minimum. Jennings signed a four year contract in 2014 with Chicago that I said was a great deal for the player given the large guarantee and price compared to the going rate in the market, not to mention his age, at that time. It was one of what would be many contracts put together by Bears GM Phil Emery that offseason that took a very optimistic view of the players potential moving forward. The Bears of course crashed last season and Emery was fired, leaving them at least one more year of guarantees on contracts for players who they most likely would have preferred to move on from.
The Bears most likely shopped Jennings but no team in the NFL would pay him the $4.4 million. The Bears could have reworked the contract to make him attractive to another team, but this was probably a situation where other teams were not interested in taking on the injury risk of the next two years of the contract. The CBA provides for a little over $1 million in injury protection for players who are hurt during the season and unable to play football the following year because of that injury, regardless of negotiated guarantees. Prior to 2016 those payments were considered a benefit but will be charged to the cap next year if incurred. So it becomes a double risk for a team.
The offsets likely won’t help Chicago too much at this point. Given that his value on the open market is less than $4.4 million that caps off Jennings take home for the year at $4.4 million. That means he will simply choose whatever team he feels has the best chance to win and gives him the best chance to play. That team will pay him $970,000 for the year, a figure that will be credited to the Bears cap the following season. Because the contract would just be for one year a team would not need to worry about the added injury liability of a long term contract.
Jennings cap charge will remain the same for Chicago this year if released. They will carry $1.5 million in dead money in 2016, which will be partially offset by that $970,000 he should earn from another team this year.