In the news that should surprise nobody department, Bears general manager Ryan Pace has announced that the Bears will cut Mike Glennon at the start of the new league year. Glennon signed a three year, $45 million contract last year which was largely considered one of the worst signings of 2017 before he even took the field. It was a contract that looked even worse when the Bears drafted Mitchell Trubisky just a short time later. Glennon started just four games before being pulled last season and carried a $14 million cap hit. Continue reading Bears to Cut Mike Glennon »
Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $52.6 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $67.1 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $7.180 million
Every year we are surprised when successful football teams either falter or fail to bounce back after a season that fans and media alike both seem to consider an aberration. From 2010 through 2013 the Bears were a successful team. They made the conference championships in 2010, won 10 games in 2012, and won 8 games in 2013 despite losing their starting quarterback for a few games. They seemed like a team poised to break out and they went into 2014’s free agency period, spent some money, and then struggled through a 5 win season.
In 2015 they hired John Fox to coach the team and get some return on their investments, but just 3 games into the season they are already selling of pieces after realizing they are one of the worst teams in the NFL.They are one of the best examples (and there are many this year) of how successful teams crash and burn because of poor management and a lack of ability to critically scout themselves as they make big financial decisions.
Bears tight end Martellus Bennett is unhappy with his contract and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter is now available in a trade. Bennett is in the third year of a four year contract that he signed with Chicago that averages $5.1 million per season and he will earn $5 million this year. Those numbers rank 13th and 12th respectively among the position. Is that a fair figure or does he deserve, (or perhaps more importantly is someone willing to give him) a raise.
At the time Bennett signed his contract I would certainly have considered the contract to be more than fair. Bennett had largely been a disappointment with the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Giants on a one year contract. In New York, Bennett began to meet the expectations that the Cowboys had for him and that was enough to get him a, at the time, upper mid level contract with Chicago in free agency.
But in the last two years the market dynamics changed considerably for the position. Actually the market probably started to change days after Bennett signed his contract when Jared Cook signed a $7.02 million contract with the Rams that was a surprising deal. That was followed by big deals for unproven players like Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph. The market then was turned upside down when Charles Clay and Julius Thomas sign monstrous contracts this offseason.
Over the last two seasons here is how Bennett stacks up statistically with the players who earn more than him.
|Player||APY||% Games Played||Targets per Game||Rec. Per Game||Yards Per Game||TD per Game||Catch rate|
In the above table I have the player’s listed by their average ranking across the final five categories, just to get an idea of how the players have done. In general you can make an argument that he is the 5th most productive veteran despite earning $1.3M less than the next closest player (the always injured Pitta). Bennett really doesn’t have a standout category, but he is steady across the board.
If we make each category a multiple of the contract’s annual value we get the following:
If we apply those averages to Bennett we get a salary range between $7 and $9.1 million, with an average of just under $8.3 million a year. So I think it’s fair to say that Bennett is certainly underpaid right now.
Now being underpaid, especially with two years remaining on a contract you signed as a veteran, doesn’t mean you should or will get a new contract, but it makes sense for Bennett to try. If Bennett plays his contract out he will be 30 when he hits free agency and while that may not be the kiss of death it is for other positions, it is not an ideal situation.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the uncertainty that surrounds Chicago. Bennett right now is in a position of strength from a statistical standpoint. Whether those numbers will continue in a different style offense that has lost Brandon Marshall and stands to lose Matt Forte within a year is a matter of debate. The new staff has no allegiance to Jay Cutler either and if he goes the numbers most certainly will drop.
Last year Vernon Davis was in a similar spot and tried to play his cards to get an extension since he was coming off a terrific season. He knew his role would likely diminish in 2014 and with it his chance of top dollar. The 49ers never would extend him and Davis was a disaster. Another year like that and he will be playing for a very low salary as a free agent in 2016. That is the kind of situation that Bennett wants to avoid.
I don’t believe the Bears would extend him. Often a new front office does not want to get a reputation for being very eager to re-negotiate team friendly contracts that have multiple years remaining. The Bears are undergoing a facelift and it is doubtful they see Bennett as part of a long term solution. So they should be open to trading him and getting anything in return.
The question now is if a team would be willing to trade for him and extend him? When you look at the current prices for free agents I would say it is clear that a market exists and that teams should be open to doing it. Because Bennett has two years remaining at just under $10.2 million, a team could conceivably extend him for $8 million a year over three new contract years, but have an effective cost of just $6.84 million in doing so. Since the new team, unlike Chicago, paid no bonus money or any other considerations they would clearly look at this as a 5, rather than 3 year deal. He is still a good bargain under $7 million.
Whether he would reach $8 million is of course debatable. My feeling is that at best he would get the $7.5M that is similar to Olsen. There is also the consideration that teams were unwilling to pay Clay and Cameron more than the $7.5M number and those teams that passed on them are the same ones that will be bidding here. While Bennett is better than those players he is also older and has less upside. There is also a question about chemistry with him. Realistically he might be looking at $7.2M a season, which would be an effective cost of about $6.4 million. I see that as reasonable.
If Chicago trades him they will gain $3.875M of cap room this year and get his $6.31M 2016 number completely off the books. They traded Marshall, who is 31 and a higher caliber player at a more important position, for a 5th round pick, so they can’t ask for much here either. For a 6th or 7th round pick I would think many teams would be interested, specifically a team like the Falcons who can desperately use a good veteran tight end.
The Chicago Bears are next up in our look at the best and worst contracts series.
Best Contract: Matt Slauson
I’ve always liked Matt Slauson since he was a member of the New York Jets. The Jets did not seem to care much for him, but he found a home in Chicago and played very well in 2013 on a very reasonable one year contract. Slauson graded out as one of the top Guards in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus metrics and one would have thought it would have led to a contract that definitely surpassed $4 million a season.
The Bears acted quickly to re-sign Slauson, who seemed to really enjoy playing in Chicago, but did not offer him an over the top contract to avoid free agency. Instead it was a very moderate deal that offered him the peace of mind of knowing where he would be playing in the future and by no means tied Chicago to the player for anything longer than a year.
Slauson’s contract averages $3.2 million a season, which is much lower than the contracts signed by other free agent guards this season including Geoff Schwartz ($4.2M), Jon Asamoah ($4.5M), and Shaun Lauvao ($4.25M). His guarantee, which is essentially his first year payout of $4 million, is less than each of those player’s guarantees, so it is not a situation where he traded in potential upside for guaranteed money.
In no year of the contract will Slauson’s salary cap charge will be more than $3.5 million. The dead money cost of the contract in year two is just $1.25 million and in year three is just $835,000. He can earn an additional $400,000 in back end salary escalators, but those are based on both player and team performance and even if earned would not materially change the value of the contract.
The one concession the Bears did seem to make to Slauson was the use of a fully guaranteed roster bonus rather than a signing bonus. Using this mechanism allows the team to prorate the bonus like a signing bonus but forces them to renounce the teams’ rights for forfeiture recovery due to suspension, retirement, etc… if such thing was to occur at anytime after 2014. I would not consider that a major concession by Chicago if the end result is getting a player around what seems to be a 20 to 25% discount. A nice contract for the team.
Worst Contract: Tim Jennings
I had a hard time coming up with the worst contract on Chicago. They are a team that I do feel overpays on a number of contracts, but uses contract structures that make the contracts more flexible. I personally believe that Jay Cutler is one of the most overpaid players in the NFL and I’m sure readers of the site would have been certain he was the player I would select. The fact is there will likely always be a market for a decent quarterback and the Bears made the meaty part of his contract at more realistic price tags of $15 to $16 million which will make him attractive to other teams in a trade. The additional $7 million he earns this year is the cost I see the Bears being willing to pay to get a first round pick or two second rounders if they do need to move Cutler. That’s not necessarily bad management.
I selected Tim Jennings for two reasons. One is that I felt that this was a “jump the gun” signing that indicated a incorrect reading of the market. Secondly this contract seemed to not follow the same pattern that the Bears used for most of their signings. In 2013 the cornerback market took a major step backwards. While there was a rebound of sorts in 2013, Jennings was the first contract signed at the position.
The Bears will pay Jennings $7.5 million in the first year of his contract, which I think is a high figure. That’s just one million less than Brent Grimes, who I feel is a much better player. The $11.8 million in full guarantees is on the high end for the position as is having over 50% of the contract value fully guaranteed. The contract just seems better suited for a 28 year old first time free agent rather than a 30 year old who probably just gave you the best two years of his career in 2012 and 2013.
For the most part it’s the guarantee on the contract that has me selecting Jennings. His contract was fully guaranteed which is different than almost every other Bears player who has a vesting guarantee during the second year of his contract. I’m not really sure why that was the case, but it stood out to me as something that the Bears gave in on to avoid Jennings hitting free agency, which I am not sure that they needed to do.
Of all the contracts I have done thus far this is the least egregious of any of them. I think a strong argument can be made for Cutler being worse and Robbie Gould being worse as well. But a few of the small things with this one made me classify it this way for the team.
2013’s Best and Worst Bears Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Charles Tillman (Re-signed with Chicago)
2013 Worst Contract: Devin Hester (Contract expired; Signed with Falcons)
Both contracts are a bit unique in that they contain roster bonuses rather than signing bonuses, however in both cases a portion of the roster bonus if fully guaranteed, which allows it to be prorated over the life of the contract just like a signing bonus. What this does, however, is limit the teams’ ability to ever recover money through a forfeiture. In both cases the players entire roster bonus is guaranteed for injury, but with no games to be played between the signing of the contract and the due date I would say its unlikely that such a clause matters.
Jennings contract is worth $22.8 million of which $11.8 million will be fully guaranteed by the 3rd day of the 2014 League year. That is a great deal for Jennings who will be 31 years old in 2014. His annual value of $5.6 million and 52.7% fully guaranteed essentially upon signing blows away the second tier deals signed last season by Sean Smith ($5.5M per year, 45.2% guaranteed) and Kyle Arrington ($4M per year, 46.9% guaranteed). Perhaps this might indicate an expected upswing in salaries for cornerbacks in 2014.
Jennings will carry cap charges of $5.25 million per year for the next two seasons and then $5.75 and $6.1 million in the final two seasons. With minimal dead money in the contract this will work out to be a two year, $12 million deal.
Slauson will earn $3.2 million a year with $3.9 million essentially guaranteed upon signing. The additional $1 million guaranteed being reported is simply an injury guarantee and is does not vest on a given date. Slauson’s deal could wind up being a one year contract worth $4 million as the team would save $2.015 million in cap room in 2015 if they decided to release him.
Slauson’s cap chargers will be $2.75M, $3.27M, $3.37M, and $3.42M over the life of the contract. $3.2 million is a pretty big raise for Slauson who will now be paid as a lower level starter, a pretty fair price for what he brings to the table. There are also small escalators at the backend of his contract.
The Bears have significantly cut down on their cap space through the five extensions they have doled out in the last week. Between Jay Cutler, Slauson, Jennings, Robbie Gould, and Tony Fiammetta they have used up $33,827,500 in cap room for 2014. Cutler’s deal is certainly open to immediate restructure, but as things now stand the Bears salary for 2014 should be around $114 million giving them around $13 million in expected cap space to use on 20 players to bring the roster from 33 to 53 players.
If the intention is to leave Cutler’s deal alone that it should be a given that Julius Peppers will be released as soon as the NFL allows it, which would free up an additional $9.817 million in cap space. It may also indicate that Chicago is open to extending WR Brandon Marshall who has a cap charge of $9.3 million and is in the final year of his contract. Bringing his cap number down along with the release of Peppers would give the Bears some additional space to use this offseason.