Chicago Bears could be among teams most impacted by pending CBA deal

Chicago Bears (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The NFLPA and league owners remain in a standstill over stipulations in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Should the new agreement pass, the Chicago Bears will be one of the teams impacted most.

As some described it, the National Football League is now on the “one-yard-line” towards a decade of labor peace. The league is noticeably close to locking in a 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, in some ways, the most player-friendly agreement in league history, and in other ways, not nearly player-friendly enough.

The power struggle has been public, especially with the NFL owners’ desire to add a 17th game to the regular-season schedule (which wouldn’t come into fruition until at least 2021), and the NFLPA wanting guaranteed contracts similar to the NBA and MLB. Nonetheless, in the most recently-proposed agreement, here are some of the minor takeaways, and how they affect the NFL, per’s Dan Graziano.

  • Higher minimum salaries, an especially-important development, since over half of the NFL’s players lace up on minimum contracts.
  • An additional $100 million in new player costs.
  • Adjustments to the league’s anti-drug program. No suspensions for positive marijuana tests; this includes neutral arbitrators for discipline cases, instead of say, commissioner Roger Goddell.
  • A seventh postseason spot in the AFC and NFC Wild Card round.

A few of these feel particularly important, as it relates to the Chicago Bears. Since making the Super Bowl in 2006, the Bears have had seven different seasons where they either: a) would’ve been the No. 7 seed (2011, 2012), tied for it (2008), or were just a game or two back (2007, 2009, 2013, 2019).

This rule all of a sudden makes Week 17 matchups all the more exciting from those 8-7, 7-8 Bears teams we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. It rewards mediocrity as much as it generates revenue. But in knowing that anything can happen in the postseason, would we be wise to complain?

The Chicago Bears’ struggles with untimely injuries dovetail that point. It’s difficult to imagine this team slipping to 8-8, and dropping out of the top-10 in run defense altogether if Akeem Hicks isn’t on listed on IR for half the season, and inactive for 11 games. Perhaps tight end Trey Burton has more of a rhythm if injuries in the preseason aren’t a carryover into Week 1?

The Bears were right at the center of a SportsFacts chart that listed the most injury-riddled teams in the NFL since the year 2015. Over the past four seasons, the Bears have put 60 players on Injured Reserve, far surpassing that of their more successful NFC North division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings (35) and Green Bay Packers (50). It’s no surprise that the one season they made the Playoffs, the Bears stayed under double-figures.

In both 2016 and 2017, the Chicago Bears spent time in the top-five in cap dollars on injured reserve by season’s end.

Trimming one preseason game and making provisions for additional bodies on the practice squad are also in play, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

From a contractual standpoint, the NFL’s new potential Collective Bargaining Agreement figures to have an impact on how the Chicago Bears approach March 18th’s free agency.

The Chicago Bears are coming in with roughly $26.3 million in cap space, according to projections by Spotrac, and some avenues in which it could go. Because the NFLPA and the owners have yet to agree on a new CBA yet, many front offices have been forced to prepare for two different alternatives. In Adam Jahns’ article on The Athletic, Pace went on record in speaking on how confident he was about the preparations for both scenarios.

"“We feel good. Between myself and (chief negotiator) Joey Laine, we have a plan in place to kind of make sure we have the space we need to make the moves we need to make. We feel good about it. We might not have the cap space we’ve had in previous years, but we don’t have as many holes throughout our roster as well either.”"

Still, the Bears’ $26 million is well below the league average of $42.6 million. As it stands today, they would rank No. 23 in the NFL in space. The timing of the new CBA — one that some have projected would open up $5 million and prohibit teams from having both a franchise tag and a transition tag — could be the difference in the Bears snagging some of the risky propositions they’ve been linked to (think Hunter Henry, A.J. Green or Austin Hooper).

Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs brought out that one league source sees the cap spike jumping up to about $20 million, a topic he and Dan Wiederer tackled extensively on their Bear Download podcast. Sure, the Bears would be getting an extra lump sum of money to work with, but so would the other 31 teams.

And then, there’s the impact of the proposed 5th-year option, which makes a first-round pick’s deal (hello there, Mitch Trubisky) guaranteed. The Chicago Bears could’ve been able to pick up that option, and drop it, as long as Trubisky was healthy enough to play. The new CBA makes that as risky as ever. There would be no opt outs in there, should the 2018 Pro Bowler have a year like he had in 2019. This would be difficult even on a virtual Madden franchise.

All of this, of course, is for naught if the NFL Player’s Association acts on distrust with the owners, who have said to have been in a major rush to finish this new deal. And that remains a big question. Reports have offered that as long as a majority among the 2,000+ players vote in agreement, that would be enough to ratify, though all 2,000+ don’t have to vote. 

The fact that the Board of Representatives had a vote that ended in 17-14 fashion was a surprise; it’s about as close as it could potentially get. The taboo among the players seems to be the 17-game schedule and contract stipulations. Rightfully so, higher-paid players like Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, or even Chicago’s Allen Robinson don’t believe it’s worth the risk.

Robinson’s point, in particular, hits home, since the Chicago Bears have yet to come to terms on a long-term deal. If they don’t, the option of a franchise tag becomes likely. In response to the new CBA deal, the former Pro Bowl wide receiver made his thoughts especially vocal.

The big question: are there enough Russell Wilson, Allen Robinson-type players to go around? On ESPN’s Bill Barnwell podcast, Barnwell and former NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth brought up an interesting dilemma: a franchise quarterback like Wilson and an average fourth-stringer have virtually the same voting power.

In Graziano’s piece, he left a lasting thought on how this could play out. If the players don’t accept, and the potential of a lockout comes about, the owners could negotiate new TV deals, and players could be working with deals that are “far less favorable.”

One-yard-line or not, there’s always a Pete Carroll out there. Ironically enough, this time, it might be Richard Sherman or Russell Wilson that put a stop to this potential “score” for the owners.

dark. Next. 5 offensive linemen to watch at Combine

Whether or not we’re sitting here in 2021, with a 17-game schedule, or fully-guaranteed contracts for NFL players, it’s hard to imagine that change isn’t on the horizon in the league we once knew. And the Chicago Bears should be one of the teams — for better or for worse — impacted the most by it.