Chicago Bears: Jordan Howard, Nick Kwiatkowski earn raises

Chicago Bears (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /

Thanks to the proven performance escalator, both Jordan Howard and Nick Kwiatkoski earn raises in 2019 and further complicate the Chicago Bears’ cap.

Plenty has been made about the Chicago Bears’ salary cap situation in 2019. The Bears don’t have too much space to work with, and with Cody Parkey’s guaranteed contract almost certainly going to be eaten and an extension for Bobby Massie (and perhaps Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos), you just have to wonder if the Bears will have much cap space to do much of anything this offseason.

As it turns out, the Bears will have even less money than most outlets have been reporting. The NFL has something called the proven performance escalator (PPE) clause. The PPE is for fourth year players entering the final year of their contract.

If players play in over 35% of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps in both their first and second year, or 35% for an average of over the first three seasons, their fourth year salary increases to the equivalent of what the original round tender is or roughly $2 million for this season. It should be noted that the PPE is only for players drafted in the third round or later.

This complicates things for both these players. Nick Kwiatkoski only played in 10% of the team’s defensive snaps last year (most of them in week one) and his average for the last three seasons falls short of the 35%. Kwiatkoski checks in at 29%.

Unfortunately for the Bears, thanks to Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman’s injuries last season, Kwiatkoski was forced to play in 36% of the team’s snaps. In Kwiatkoski’s rookie season he played 42% of the snaps. Those numbers from his first two seasons qualify Kwiatkoski for the PPE.

While it seems great that Kwiatkoski earned an increase in salary, what it means is that Kwiatkoski will almost certainly be given his walking papers (or traded if someone wants to surrender a low-round draft pick). The Bears, with a tight cap, simply won’t be able to afford Kwiatkoski at that price.

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Howard’s future with the team was questionable at this point prior to the news about his increase in salary. It was clear after this season that Howard didn’t fit in Nagy’s offense and his future with the team would be in doubt. Paying Howard over $2 million per year for him to continue to be a square peg in a round hole doesn’t make much sense.

Howard will almost certainly be traded this offseason and the Bears will be going another direction at running back. Kareem Hunt has been speculated for the last month or so and you can expect that noise to get even louder in the coming weeks.

Obviously, the Bears were well aware of these salary escalators prior to this announcement. In fact, they knew about Kwiatkoski after the 2017 season when he hit the 35% mark two years in a row. But for all the amateur capologists out there, these salary increases hadn’t been counted in almost every model, so this announcement gives fans a better idea of what kind of cap space the Bears are dealing with and the answer, currently, is not much.