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Phil Emery positions Chicago Bears for the future

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has made several calculated choices that hurt the Chicago Bears' salary cap situation in 2014 but help in 2015 and beyond.

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has made several calculated choices that hurt the Chicago Bears’ salary cap situation in 2014 but help in 2015 and beyond.

The Chicago Bears have made a flurry of moves in the past two weeks, swapping out old free-agent acquisitions like Adam Podlesh, Michael Bush, and Julius Peppers for new additions like Lamarr Houston, Ryan Mundy, and Willie Young.

At the end of all these moves, the Chicago Bears are left pretty much capped out for 2014.  They currently sit at around $7 million cap space (according to spotrac.com), but will need about $2 million to sign their rookies and $3 million to have some wiggle room once the regular season starts.

So you might see the Bears signing some minimum-level free agents to one-year deals still, as these use up almost no additional cap space, but any premium players (such as Jared Allen or Chris Clemons) Chicago Bears fans are clamoring for are likely not coming in 2014.

A few players-such as wide receiver Eric Weems (pictured)-could be cut to clear a little salary cap space, but right now the Chicago Bears are pretty much capped out.

A few players-such as wide receiver Eric Weems (pictured)-could be cut to clear a little salary cap space, but right now the Chicago Bears are pretty much capped out.

Of course, Chicago could opt to create more space either through cutting players or restructuring contracts.  Quarterback Jay Cutler, for instance, can have any of his $22.5 million 2014 salary redistributed to a signing bonus that will spread the cap hits out over five years.  This could create up to $18 million in cap space for 2014, but that money would apply itself to future years.

Looking Ahead

I personally find it highly unlikely that happens, and here’s why: Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has made his moves this offseason with 2015 (and beyond) in mind as much as 2014.  Sure, he wants to field a competitive team in 2014, which is why he brought back Charles Tillman and added veterans like Houston and Young.

But Emery has consistently made choices to position the Chicago Bears well for the future as much as this year.  The players recently cut could have been designated as June 1 cuts, which would have moved about $5.5 million in dead money from 2014 to 2015 cap hits.  Emery declined both times.  Jay Cutler’s contract has its largest cap hit in 2014 before being quite reasonable from 2015-2018, the exact opposite of most mega contracts quarterbacks have signed that are back-loaded and kick any money issues into the future.

Front-loading quarterback Jay Cutler's contract hurts the Chicago Bears' 2014 salary cap, but will help in 2015 and beyond.

Front-loading quarterback Jay Cutler’s contract hurts the Chicago Bears’ 2014 salary cap, but will help in 2015 and beyond.

Unencumbered future

By front-loading Cutler’s contract and swallowing almost $13 million in dead money on the cap in 2014, Emery has given the Chicago Bears an excellent cap situation in 2015 and beyond.  Next year the Chicago Bears currently have 36 players under contract for a total cap hit of around $83.7 million.  Once you factor in rookies from the next two drafts, those numbers will rise to around 50 players and around $95 million.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be due a nice contract extension, and fellow receiver Brandon Marshall is scheduled to be a free agent who will undoubtedly receive a nice new deal from the Chicago Bears as well.  Even assuming they take up an additional $20 million on the cap (this would involve basically no back-loading of their contracts), that puts the Bears somewhere in the range of $115 million in 2015 cap.  With the cap scheduled to be around $145 or $150 million, that means the Chicago Bears are looking at $30-35 million in 2015 cap space to work with, a stark contrast from the limited cap space of the last two or three years.

There will be needs

Of course, the Chicago Bears are also going to have some positions that need addressing with that money.  This can be a little difficult to predict due to the fact that the 2014 draft has not yet happened and we do not know what-if any-young players will break out in 2014, but right now it looks like the offense will be mostly set, while question marks will abound on defense.

On offense, center Roberto Garza will be the only starter who is a free agent (assuming that Brandon Marshall is re-signed as I said above).  Garza is old and will likely retire, so the Bears will be looking for a new center (unless, of course, they like Taylor Boggs, who is currently on the roster, or draft somebody in the 2014 draft to groom).

The Chicago Bears could patch two or three defensive holes in free agency with above-average players like Lamarr Houston.

The Chicago Bears could patch two or three defensive holes in free agency with above-average players like Lamarr Houston.

On defense, however, the picture is far different.  The only proven players currently under contract for 2015 are defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, and cornerback Tim Jennings.  Other veterans-such as Lance Briggs, DJ Williams, Nate Collins, Stephen Paea, Charles Tillman, and Chris Conte-will be free agents, and the only other defensive players under contract are unproven players like David Bass, Cornelius Washington, Shea McClellin, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, Isaiah Frey, Ryan Mundy, and whatever rookies get drafted this year.

Of course, some of those young defensive players could establish themselves this year and provide some clarity to the defense in 2015, and some of the younger veterans (Conte, Collins, and Paea) could have solid years and earn new contracts.  But it seems highly likely the Bears will at least have to replace aging stalwarts Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. This is where the cap space comes in.

Phil Emery has brought in three above-average starters with mid-level contracts in free agency the last two years-on a tight cap-to fill glaring team needs: tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod in 2013 and defensive end Lamarr Houston this year.  He will have the space next year to easily dole out three of those contracts without having to backload the deals and hurt the Chicago Bears’ future cap situation.

Free agency is nice, but the Chicago Bears will need  drafted defenders like Jon Bostic to develop into quality starters to field a good defense.

Free agency is nice, but the Chicago Bears will need drafted defenders like Jon Bostic to develop into quality starters to field a good defense.

Wait and see

Emery’s head-on tackling of some cap problems in 2014 is set to pay dividends in 2015 and beyond.  The Chicago Bears are in a position that they can use 2014 to see what young defensive players are quality starters, then instantly plug any remaining holes in free agency in 2015.  Much like the offense in 2012 and 2013, the defensive rebuilding should be able to be completed in two offseasons through a combination of the draft and free agency.

Of course, the important part there is the draft.  Emery landed three instant starters on offense in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, and will need to do much of the same in 2014 and 2015 to find similar success.  The cap situation suggests that he should be able to help augment draft mistakes in free agency a little more easily than in the past, but drafting quality players is still the surest route to assembling a quality team.

2726 comments
The Real CJammin
The Real CJammin

Wow, would've been perfect last night if NC State hadn't shit themselves in the last 5 minutes of the 2nd half of that game.  Fucking Wolfpack.

Chocolate Honey O's
Chocolate Honey O's

Honestly it's hard to fit my idea of fashion around the fact that if everything turns out the way I want, I'll probably be wearing flip-flops almost every day for the foreseeable future.

natesweet
natesweet moderator

So many upsets already. Nobody is winning a billion dollars.

robertj72
robertj72

OK I'm calling it a night...Peace

robertj72
robertj72

14-2...I can't complain with that!

bp.
bp. moderator

I often go out in a t shirt.  But I don't often go to work in one (read: never), and don't meet up with work acquaintances in them.  But you can totes where t shirts and not tuck them in in life if you want.  Its cool.

LOLUNCFAN
LOLUNCFAN

This game need to end so I can go to bed I'm tired as shit

Chocolate Honey O's
Chocolate Honey O's

Good. I don't have to hear shit about OSU or its idiot fans for at least a week.

robertj72
robertj72

DAmmit SDST...how did you let that team back in and go to OT?

robertj72
robertj72

@bp. It is accepted. Not sure i would go so far as cool. You can go on a plane in slippers and a Muu-Muu but the rest of us know you are poor white trash immediately.

Chocolate Honey O's
Chocolate Honey O's

@robertj72 @bp. Put I AM poor. Really fucking poor. Well I mean not that poor but honestly I would consider buying myself any new clothes now to be a unwise financially.

Gruntled ®eggie
Gruntled ®eggie moderator

Meaning I'm speechless or have nothing to say to it.

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's @robertj72Khaki Slacks will go with most anything and are comfortable yet look professional. and common enough that you should be able to find them. If you wear it with a T, a polo shirt, or a buttonup shirt and tie no matter what color it goes well. Simple beige khakis.

i.e. Dockers

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's @robertj72Another place to look are discount stores with new clothes that are "irregular". Sometimes there are outlets that sell top line stuff but they were missewn or the dye lot was wrong. Some are in great shape or just need minor hemming work but they are considered write off, shipped to these discount outlets for a fraction of the original cost. But make sure you try it one and have a friend look in the back that there isn't something like a sleeve that is 2 inches shorter than the other.

Do you know the kind of store i am talking about?

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's Do you have an area near a retirement community? You can find great clothes. These old ladies will buy their husbands really nice church clothes or dress pants that he never or rarely wore. Then he dies, because they are old. I still go to the thrift shop in Calabash because of this. I found a brand new pair of silk pants..very nice silk pants Tommy Bahama for 4 bucks. I bought a 5 speaker, 3 CD stereo for 30 dollars. Son had bought his dad the system for a sound system to watch his WWII movies. Old man never opened it..still had twist ties on the wires. Gave it to the thrift shop. VAlue online $350

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's @robertj72@bp.Coastal Carolina...10 minutes from Wilmington.
It was a house my great grandfather built in the 20's. It was free rent so we stayed there. My dad was a drunk and pot head. Although he did hold a job most the time.

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's @robertj72@bp.True story...when i was seven we lived in a house with no plumbing. We had an outhouse...this is late 70's...not SDL era. We had to hand pump water from a well that my mom heated on a wood stove that she then poored into a plastic kiddy pool with a crack so my brother and I had to wash fast before it drained out. That is fucking poor.

robertj72
robertj72

@Chocolate Honey O's @robertj72@bp.I grew up poor. WE were the family that got canned goods from the school and church. I married at 17 and my wife (older) had to file for bankrupcy from a previous marriage. So i went from welfare to bankrupt. But you can find clothes that show you care about your appearance at Salvation Army or Thrift store for a buck. You can be clean shaven. I ma sure you find money to eat out sometimes or buy a game. That same money can be items of clothes that will allow you to show others you respect yourself and you intend to achieve in the future.