Urlacher's Proposal and Free Agency Put Pressure on Chicago Bears to Solve Salary Cap Puzzle


As I was thinking about this post and the impending free agency period, I thought of one of those slider puzzles where you have to move pieces around until the picture comes together.  The pressure is on the usually reliable contract negotiator Cliff Stein and Phil Emery to solve the salary cap puzzle to help the Chicago Bears become players in free agency.

The Bears are only about $3.8 million under the salary cap but have a lot of needs to fill.  Now we’re getting word that Brian Urlacher’s people have presented their contract proposal to the Bears.  It’s already been clear that both sides are willing to make this work, but the big question is how much they really want to make it work.  It’ll be curious to see what the Bears will offer.  Phil Emery assured us that Urlacher “would not be slighted”  in negotiations.  Slighting is in the eye of the beholder I guess. 

Regardless of what happens in the Urlacher situation, and I personally hope both sides decide quickly, the Bears need to free up salary cap space.  How can they do it?  Here are some options.


Re-structuring contracts is sort of the cowardly way to go about business.  It’s often a way of kicking the proverbial can down the road, putting off a potentially difficult decision.  When you restructure, eventually you have to pay the piper, or the Peppers in this example.  Everyone and their brother who knows anything about the Bears salary cap situation has suggested or at least considered re-structuring Julius Peppers’ massive contract.

Peppers counts over $16 million against the cap.  Let’s get one thing straight.  The Bears will not go to Peppers and ask him to take a pay cut.  That simply doesn’t happen to a player of Peppers’ stature.  If you ask a player to get a haircut and they refuse, you have to be prepared to cut them.  That’s not happening with Pep.  What the Bears could do is take a chunk of his $12.9 million in base salary and convert it to a bonus.  He’d cash the same paychecks, but they could spread the cap hit over a couple more years.  The hope is that the salary cap goes up by 2015 to lessen the impact of the hit.

Candidates for restructuring are Peppers ($16.2 against the 2013 salary cap), Peanut Tillman ($8 million), Brandon Marshall ($9 million), Lance Briggs ($4.5 million) and even Robbie Gould ($2.4 million)


Cuts are a painful part of the NFL.  It’s not easy to say good bye to a player who contributed to your team and built a relationship with fans and management alike.  It’s also difficult for a GM and team to admit their mistakes if a player failed to pan out after a big payday.  When a new regime comes along, some of the sentimental ties and business decisions become a little easier to resolve.

The problem with a straight up cut is that any portion of unpaid bonus money gets accelerated against the cap in the year they’re cut.  It’s called dead money.  Teams can avoid roster or workout bonuses as well as the base, but there’s still a certain amount of dead money that counts against your cap.

Let’s take the Peppers deal again?  Want a ton of cap space?  Just cut Peppers, right?  Wrong!  Peppers still have over $9 million in dead money.  Why pay $9 million for him to go away when for the low, low price of just $7 million more, you get an All-Pro player?

Despite that, there are some guys who just don’t fit the system or whose contracts make them a good candidate to get cut.  Some guys whom the Bears might cut to for salary cap relief include: Kellen Davis ($1.35 in dead money), Devin Hester ($833k), Roberto Garza ($2.4 million base – I hate to admit it, but I’d rather get a younger, cheaper option) and even Earl Bennett ($2.25 million base).

What do you think Bears fans?  What should the Bears do to create some salary cap space?

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Tags: Brandon Marshall Brian Urlacher Chicago Bears Devin Hester Julius Peppers

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenzie.dow Kenzie Dow

    Keep Earl.Release Hester and Davis for sure, and Garza I’m on the fence on because if we don’t have someone on the roster to take over center,then we will have another need to fill with limited money and draft picks.

    • BearGogglesOn

      I think they should ask Earl to take a pay cut and if he refuses, then they’d have to cut him. He is good, but replaceable given what they have in Marshall and Jeffery. Could find a better option in the slot. Bears overpaid him a couple of years ago because they had no other choices.

  • John Mack

    The best option seems to be trading away some of the “un”productive salaries, eating whatever signing bonuses we’ve guaranteed those players and drafting for their replacements. Picking up 3rd and 4th rd picks could broaden the quantity and possibility of finding quality.

    • BearGogglesOn

      Which unproductive salaries do you think they could jettison?

      • John Mack

        Kellen Davis (as always), Matt Toeaina (chump change but every penny counts), Matt Spaeth, and J’Webb Nation. Roughly 5.7 million in savings, I throw Spaeth in there because how effective was the blocking of our offense as a whole? And his contract counts 2 mil against the cap.

        • John Mack

          Davis (CHECK), Toeaina (CHECK), Spaeth (CHECK)…J’Webb Nation (You’re put on notice…shape up this season or you’ll be shipped out!)

  • Phil_X

    Lots of good comments and suggestions. Hester and Davis, possibly Garza for sure. I say offer Bennett less, then cut him if he doesn’t take it. As sad as it is, Jwebb needs to stay. Add a couple of more cuts, restructure Tillman, Peppers, Urlacher, and Marshall…the Bears could end up with 18-22 million in space.

    • BearGogglesOn

      Phil – don’t know if they can squeeze that much out of the cuts and restructured deals. I’d be happy if they could get about $12-$15 million under. Urlacher is not under contract, so he’s not a candidate for restructuring.

      I’d consider throwing an extension at Marshall, but it’s risky if any of his previous issues pop back up. He hasn’t given us any reason to doubt him but let’s say Cutler was let go after this season. Would Marshall implode like he did when he was left in Denver?

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.cole.56 Todd Cole

    Trade Hester for a draft choice on the second day (saves 1.875M on 2013 cap);
    Cut Kellen Davis (saves 2.4M on 2013 cap); cut Micheal Bush (costs an additional $550k on 2013 cap, but clears up $8.45M across ’14 and ’15); Release J’Marcus Webb (saves $1.31M). Cut Roberto Garza (clears 2.125M) Space Cleared= $7,160,000 + 4,382,502 remaining on cap. $11,542,502 on 2013 cap remaining

    Extend Charles Tillman- 3 years $18.5M (’13 base $3.5M + $3M bonus saves $1.5M)
    Extend Tim Jennings- 4 years $22M (’13 base $3M+$1.4M bonus saves $600k)

    Contract for Henry Melton- 5 years $32M/$10M Guarantee (’13 base salary 4.4M +

    2M bonus saves $2.05M)

    These moves work for the present and next few years. Additionally, restructuring Peppers- advance his bonus money and give him a $5M base in ’13 would save an additional $2M. His ’14 and ’15 cap number will be huge, but all un-guaranteed base salary- so trading or releasing would be an option with no cap penalty.

    All said and done, it is conceivable to open up nearly $18M in space this year and have some flexibility for contract extensions for B. Marsh and Cutler (if needed) next year.