Per Adam Schefter, Chicago is looking to trade WR Earl Bennett. Usually when rumors like this happen at this time of year they are often a precursor to a player being cut or being asked to take a substantial pay cut if nobody bites on the trade talk. The Bears salary cap situation is extremely tight, with somewhere between $2.2 and $2.8 million in salary cap room. In one week when rosters expand to 53 and the team signs a Practice Squad, about $2 million comes off that figure. The Bears have already placed CB Kelvin Hayden on IR meaning their roster will be 54 players for cap purposes. The bottom line is they need to trim their salary cap within the next few days.
Bennett has a base salary, a portion of which is guaranteed for injury, of $2.25 million, all of which would come off the salary cap if Bennett was released or traded. Bennett signed a unique incentive laden contract with Chicago in 2011 in that he received a $6 million dollar signing bonus but it all accelerated into the 2011 season due to a void provision put into his contract. That has left Bennett with no dead money, making it an easy decision to move on if they need to. Bennett’s numbers have steadily declined since 2009 and last year QB Jay Cutler was completely locked in on WR Brandon Marshall who was the most widely targeted receiver in the NFL compared to his teammates in 2012.
There are plenty of high priced players on the Bears roster who are going to be free agents in 2014 so there are avenues for Chicago to create cap space beyond cuts. However the team has been reluctant to extend their players and seems to be in a holding pattern where they prefer to see how the players respond to a new head coach before making a long term commitment. Because Bennett has no dead money in his contract he is an ideal player to move as it will have no material impact on the teams salary cap in 2014.
He will clearly be a name to watch in the coming days and could easily be released or have his contract renegotiated to give the Bears a little breathing room to operate in the 2013 season.