Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $52.6 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $67.1 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $7.180 million
Players Under Contract: 54
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 18(6 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 11
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Despite the injury problems there is no doubt that Alshon Jeffery is a top tier player. Jeffery is as good as any receiver in the NFL and makes up about 50% of the team’s passing offense which is just a ridiculous number. At the least he will be franchised so they can explore trades if they feel he is not committed to Chicago…Even though 50% of his offensive production as a receiver came in just two games, Zach Miller has probably earned himself a two year contract to be the team’s starting tight end…Tracy Porter and Jarvis Jenkins both could be back on low cost contracts given the lack of depth on defense…Marc Mariani is a decent low cost option to keep on the roster next season…
Free Agents to Let Walk
Matt Forte has had a wonderful career with Chicago, but they are in the mode where they should be turning the page on their pricier veterans and not extending them…The Bears tried their best to get something out of Shea McClellin but there is no need to try anymore now that his contract has expired…Alan Ball only played in 6 games and wasn’t very effective in those games…Most of the minimum salary players will only be back if the Bears can’t find someone else.
Contracts to Modify
The Bears will pick up their 5th year option on Kyle Long at some point this spring and should look to extend him shortly after doing that…The team might consider extending Willie Young if they see a future for him beyond this season…A $4.1 million cap hit for a kicker who isn’t automatic might lead to a pay cut.
Players to Consider Releasing
Jermon Bushrod lost his job last season after injury and wont be back at a $6.5 million salary and $8.7 million cap hit. The team will save $4.3 million in cap by cutting him…It was pretty obvious that the Martellus Bennett relationship was headed downhill last season and they could move on this year either via trade or release. Cutting him saves nearly $5.2 million…I would expect the team to see if there is any interest in Lamarr Houston. Rumors are he wants out of Chicago and even though his second year in Chicago was better than his first it may be addition by subtraction. They would save $4 million in cap and $6 million in cash by not bringing him back…The team paid all of Antrel Rolle’s guarantees in his first year so they can move on with no cost if they want.
The Bears have minimized signing bonuses in recent free agent contracts (Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Antrel Rolle) and instead utilized larger guaranteed base salaries or roster bonuses. The effect of this is reduced optionality in the short term – less room for more signings in the present year – counterbalanced by reduced commitment in the long term – 30th ranking in Commitment Index and more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments. As a result, the Bears are in a position to spend aggressively without creating a compromised salary cap situation in the future. Last year I identified Antrel Rolle as one of the most likely one-and-done free agent contracts; ECV 2.0 finds that to be even more likely now. In 2014 and 2015 Jay Cutler benefited from Accelerated Future Team Option Deadlines, provisions that greatly increase Expected Outcome in a given contract season. Following 2016 his salary cap numbers consist almost entirely of True Cap Space, allowing the team significant flexibility to either restructure the contract via salary-to-bonus conversion or terminate the contract with little dead money left behind.
Expected Contract Outcomes – Expected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions. The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016. A pay cut is treated as a termination. We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options. Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.
|Player||Position||Expected Outcome||Expected Savings|
|Expected Change in Cap Room||+$14,564,012|
True Cap Space – Realizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms. Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.
|True Cap Space (2016)|
|Adjusted Salary Cap||$151,064,464|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||($16,285,043)|
|Realizable Cap Space||$134,779,421|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||($17,681,971)|
|Minimum Salary Cap Holds||($21,600,000)|
|True Cap Space||$95,497,450|
Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments. The Commitment Index Score of every team in the league changes to at least some degree with every transaction executed by any team in the league, so Commitment Index Score is measured as of a specific point in time (in this case, January 11, 2016).
|Commitment Index (2017+)|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||$17,847,215|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||$6,375,284|
|Current Cap Space||($51,787,541)|
|Commitment Index Score||-160%|
|League Rank (1st = Most Committed)||30th|
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what the Bears are right now but if I had to venture a guess they are still in the process of breaking the team down after the failures of their prior general manager. Though Jay Cutler is a higher priced veteran and normally you try to build around those players I doubt the Bears see Cutler as more than a one year solution at this point. I wouldn’t be shocked if they traded him this year if a team was willing to take on his salary and I see it as a likely outcome by next year. Like last year this should be a roster of tradeable parts.
In looking over the roster construction there is definitely some good youth on the offensive side of the football. They have some good young offensive linemen, could arguably have the best young WR duo in the game if Kevin White comes back strong from injury and may have a decent runner in Jeremy Langford. I could see them making a decision to build this side of the football through the draft while focusing their dollars in free agency more on the defense.
The question is are they looking for possible impact players on defense or are they content with simply upgrading a bit from last year’s strategy of signing a number of lower tier veterans to low cost contracts and continuing to carry over cap space for their draft picks in the future? A happy medium might be to follow the Raiders’ and, to a lesser extent, Jaguars’ strategies of signing either the best available at lower cost positions and looking for lesser players at the expensive positions while structuring all contracts such that they are effectively just one or two year contracts with little proration to account for if released.
Clearly Chicago needs help in the secondary and there are a few players who could be upgrades. Though prices have exploded in the last two years for the position other than Sean Smith and Josh Norman the players this year should fall in the second tier. Prince Amukamara, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Heyward, ad Trumaine Johnson all could help the team out. If looking a little cheaper someone like Morris Claiborne could be a one year trial at a low cost. If they instead opt for the more veteran route Jerraud Powers and Greg Toler could be the type of names out there.
There may not be much help at linebacker in free agency but Danny Trevathan could give more consistency in the interior of the defense. Other names that could be considered would be Jerrell Freeman and possibly taking a chance on Bruce Irvin to provide a pass rush.
He will likely be too expensive but looking into Malik Jackson for defensive end could help both with a natural rush from the end but also in opening up more possibilities from the outside. Given the recent prices for players like Jackson though, the Bears could be looking at $10-$12M a year and that might be too much for a rebuilding team. If he could stay healthy Mike DeVito would be a solid professional veteran to add to a mix of players.
On the offense in free agency I would imagine it would be looking for a tackle and moving Kyle Long back to guard. Mitchell Schwartz would be the best right tackle available and generally these are affordable positions.
It would be surprising if the team did not come away with a quarterback in the draft. They need to get someone prepared for 2017 and it would be likely that player would get a few games this season whenever Cutler misses a few games. That would be a better option than bringing back another Jimmy Clausen type to back up Cutler.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.