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Chicago Bears Offseason Plan: keep your own

Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is a likely cap casualty this offseason.

Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers could be a cap casualty this offseason.

We all love to take our turn playing fantasy general manager in the offseason, declaring confidently that we could do a better job than the guys being paid millions to run our favorite teams.

Well, I am no different.  I thoroughly enjoy discussing these types of offseason moves, and here is my built-in forum for laying out my plan for the Chicago Bears this offseason.  Obviously the first priority will be for restoring the defense to its former glory, but I do not ignore the offense completely either.

Adam Podlesh was the worst punter in the NFL last year according to many metrics. His days in Chicago are likely finished.

Adam Podlesh was the worst punter in the NFL last year according to many metrics. His days in Chicago are likely finished.

Cap Moves

As of this writing now the Chicago Bears are slated to have about $8.7 million dollars (according to spotrac.com) to spend under the cap, so we’ll go forward starting with that number.  With so many free agents (25 right now), the Bears will obviously need to make some moves to increase that amount.

The first and biggest move is to cut defensive end Julius Peppers.  This saves $9.8 million on the 2014 cap.  Cutting running back Michael Bush with a June 1 designation saves $2.8 million, while dumping punter Adam Podlesh saves just over $1 million.  That increases the room Chicago has to work with to about $21 million (after you factor in the cost of a replacement level contract for the cut players).  Add in a pay cut of $1 million for wide receiver Earl Bennett, and we’ll say the Chicago Bears have approximately $22 million to work with, although about $2 million of that needs to be allotted for their rookies, so we’ll go forward with a number of $20 million.

Re-signings

The Chicago Bears have several of their own free agents who are worth bringing back.  I will take a minute here to talk about the ones I would re-sign and what I think would be a realistic contract for them.

Defensive lineman Corey Wootton is a solid contributor worth bringing back to the Chicago Bears.

Defensive lineman Corey Wootton is a solid contributor worth bringing back to the Chicago Bears.

First, I want to give a long-term deal to defensive end Corey Wootton. He’s not a star and hasn’t put up flashy statistics, but he’s a solid contributor who can start at one defensive end spot.  I would give Wootton four years, and I think about $10 million should do it, maybe even closer to $8 million.  After all, he only has 11.5 career sacks in four years, although 10.55 of them have come in the last two seasons.  Even if his contract ends up being slightly larger than that, it would not be difficult to structure his contract so that his year one cap hit is $2 million.

Then I want to bring defensive tackle Henry Melton back.  Melton played last year on the franchise tag at just over $8 million, but injured his knee in week three and missed the remainder of the year.  Therefore I’m not going to invest the money Melton would like in a long-term deal, but I’m counting on the fact that nobody else is either.  I would give Melton a two year deal.  Year one would be a fully guaranteed $3 million, with incentives that could bump it up to $4 million based on snaps played and sacks.  Year two would essentially be a team option: $8 million with no guaranteed money, but it becomes fully guaranteed if he is still on the roster for the first day of the league year in 2015.  So the initial cap hit for 2014 would be $3 million here.

Cornerback Zach Bowman should provide the Chicago Bears with some solid and inexpensive depth.

Cornerback Zach Bowman should provide the Chicago Bears with some solid and inexpensive depth.

I would also look to give cornerback Zach Bowman a two year deal, which should not cost much more than around $2.5 million total.  Bowman started eight games last year in Charles Tillman’s absence and performed adequately.  In a crowded cornerback market, he would not be looking for big money, but he can be a valuable contributor for the Chicago Bears.  He can compete for a starting role with a rookie and at the very least provide solid depth.  Plus he is a bigger cornerback at 6’1”, which pairs well with smaller starter Tim Jennings.  We’ll say his 2014 cap hit will be approximately $1 million.

Finally I would bring back linebacker DJ Williams, who played solid football last year for six games before missing the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.  Williams has a long career as a solid linebacker, but due to injuries and suspension has only played in thirteen games combined the past two years.  He will be 32 by the time the season starts, so a one-year deal seems like the right idea.  He and Lance Briggs can provide veteran leadership for young linebackers Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and Shea McClellin.  Williams should come cheap due to his age and injury history, so we’ll say he signs a one year contract for $1.5 million.

Those players will combine for a $6 million cap hit in 2014 (after accounting for the fact their contracts replace minimum ones with respect to the salary cap) while providing the Chicago Bears with four veteran defenders who will either start or play significant roles on the defense.  This leaves them with approximately $14 million to work with.  Unfortunately, it means that cornerback Charles Tillman is no longer a Chicago Bear, which just about breaks my heart, but it makes more sense financially for the team to move on from him and move on with the cheaper and younger Zach Bowman, platooned with a rookie.

Saying goodbye to cornerback Charles Tillman would be a painful but necessary part of my offseason plan.

Saying goodbye to cornerback Charles Tillman would be a painful but necessary part of my offseason plan.

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is also not retained in this plan; I would bring him back for one year and maybe $2 million if I was unable to sign Melton.  I would also happily sign Ratliff for one year and $1 million if he was willing to take that deal, but that does not seem likely.  Ratliff is a solid player but is also old, so he doesn’t really fit with the Chicago Bears’ stated desire of getting younger.

All of these moves so far have been on defense, because almost everybody on offense is still under contract.  One exception is backup tackle Eben Britton, who played well in spurts last year as a blocking tight end and at right tackle.  I would try to bring him back for a two year deal as the top backup offensive lineman for all tackle and guard spots.  That should not run more than maybe $2.5 million total, so we’ll say a $1 million cap hit in 2014. This lowers Chicago’s remaining cap room to about $13 million.

I would also offer backup quarterback Josh McCown a two year, $3 million deal.  He will be offered more from other teams, but has stated he wants to remain in Chicago and cares more about the situation than the money.  If he takes that deal, the Bears would have about $12 million left (assuming a $1.5 million 2014 cap hit).  If he does not, I would bring back Jordan Palmer at the veteran minimum, still leaving Chicago with about $13 million in cap space.  For the purposes of cap calculations going forward, we’ll assume the Chicago Bears re-sign McCown.

The only other offensive free agent of note is center Roberto Garza, who I will happily let retire.  He simply was overpowered physically too often last year, and at 35 his physical skills are not going to be improving.

Stay Tuned

This ends part one of my plan.  Stick around for part two, when I talk about free agency, and part three, when I look at the draft.

3134 comments
gatrbuc17 again
gatrbuc17 again moderator

Has anyone LOL'd OSU??? No. Ok...............LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLROTFLMMFAO OSU!!!!!

gatrbuc17 again
gatrbuc17 again moderator

Afternoon gents. What all good have I missed today.

Judge__Smails
Judge__Smails

Has SDL's nursing home cut back his internet hours?

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

nobody claimed there was a positional tag. the argument has always been over compensation (top 5 TE money vs top 5 WR money).

Gruntled ®eggie
Gruntled ®eggie moderator

There ARE positional tags. That's what all of this is about.

BearsSaveLives
BearsSaveLives moderator

He's probably just been working on one post for three days.

LOLUNCFAN
LOLUNCFAN

Yeah Penn Sate  Penitentiary