The Bears are doing what it takes to clean up Ryan Pace’s mess.
It’s kind of like getting a really bad haircut and getting a buzz cut to fix it. Eventually it will look better, but for now, get used to the tightly cropped look.
It’s a way of describing what new general manager Ryan Poles has done in his process of rebuilding the team. He cut players or traded Khalil Mack, while absorbing the dead salary cap reached this year for those players.
A dead cap hit is the remaining money of the player’s pro-rated guaranteed bonus money. Teams are allowed to pro-rate the guaranteed bonus against future years of cap space. Once traded or cut, that money immediately counts towards a team’s available salary cap space.
Dead money is really piling up for the Bears because Pace abused the credit card.
Spotrac.com estimated it was $48.6 million on Saturday after the team formalized its cuts to Danny Trevathan and Tarik Cohen, with designations in June to improve their total salary cap savings.
The salary cap for this year is $208.2 million. That means just $159.6 million is the Bears’ true cap for this year, and much of it is now reserved for roster players.
That leaves the Bears with less to spend on free agents of all types this year, though they had a little more than expected due to the issue with Larry Ogunjobi failing his physical.
They also need money for their draft picks.
Treat it all like a pie. The dead ceiling space is no longer available, so it’s a big piece of the pie someone has already cut out. Bears can eat what’s left. It will be much less than many other teams will have to eat.
Dead money is the only thing the Bears will likely lead the league this year.
All of this means GM Ryan Poles and Assistant GM Ian Cunningham have to be extremely good at what they do to find low-cost free agents who can make the team competitive this year. That’s why he warned everyone that he would go after second- and third-phase free agents.
When you’re low on cash but have a rebuild to do, there’s a type of player that’s especially appealing. It’s the overachievers, effort guys who have fought hard for the success they’ve had in the league.
Almost all of their free agent signings so far are examples of that.
Linebacker Nicholas Morrow, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, center/guard Lucas Patrick and receiver Byron Pringle are examples of low-budget players, but they’re also valuable in other ways. They had to fight for what they could get in the league, with Morrow, Patrick and Pringle not being drafted. St. Brown is a sixth round.
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Former Colts defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who signed Friday, is another sixth-round pick. There are no better examples of effort guys than fullbacks because they do so much dirty work, and the Bears agreed to terms with one in Tennessee’s Khari Blasingame.
What’s also evident in all of these players except St. Brown is that they seem to be on the rise. All may have come from their best seasons and all are young in NFL terms. St. Brown is someone whose offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had personal knowledge of, and it looked like he had just been ousted in Green Bay along with too many other receivers in the past. was difficult to have an impact.
The Bears started free agency with more cap space available than many teams, but they also had more free agents, 26 of them.
Ultimately, it looks like a tough to lousy year on the pitch, but ultimately it will be a good thing.
Indeed, all the cap they have paid means space available for years to come, especially 2023. They are currently expected to have over $165 million per Spotrac.com for 2023.
Until then, the best approach is lower-level players on short-term deals, like one- and two-year deals given all those free agents they’ve signed. They’re letting those hard-working, gifted guys prove themselves again and if they do, they’ll set the tone for the effort the team wants to see in the future from the bigger players.
They’ll still need a lot of their cap space to secure new contracts with Roquan Smith and possibly David Montgomery, but they’ll still have plenty left. They also have nearly 40 players to add before their offseason roster is filled.
They will learn a lot about the quality of Matt Eberflus and his staff in 2022, as the staff will be asked to mentor this collection of low-cost free agents and the few leftovers. Having guys’ effort helps here instead of more expensive talents.
A better possible future
In 2023, nothing will prevent the new general manager from finding talent on the open market. The talent level will improve.
It’s the real rebuild that many Bears fans didn’t want to see or admit, but it’s happening.
The reason for all this is Pace’s poor draft record.
If he had written well, they would not have needed to delve into free will to the extent that they did. They wouldn’t have had to give big prorated bonuses two years into a player’s contract to many of their own free agents.
If the Poles draft well, he can begin to reverse past mistakes and turn the Bears into an efficient organization that’s among the most wasteful in the NFL.
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