From the research I could glean-- esp from one poster "DaBears5454" who posts on the CB.com , I've been able to piece together what the real cap situation looks like for the Bears this year and what we might be able to pull off. Below the jump, I've laid it out.
In addition, it is reported that the Bears can carry over about $7.5M of 2011 excess Cap Space into 2012.
So, we're sitting at about $50M of Cap space with 39 players under contract today.N, the Bears will need to reserve about $5M in cap space for Camp, injuries and IR. Bringing the team to $45M.
They'll need another $7M of 2012 Cap space for the new Rookie Cap. Let's say 7 players (picks + UFA) make the final 53 man roster so now we're at 46 players.
And at $38M Cap space.
Now, assume that from there we starting cutting players (and apologies this will be a bit ruthless:) but these are all vets with contracts expiring after the 2012 season. I don't think there will be a cap hit by cutting them (could be wrong but that is my understanding.)
1. Start with Omiyale-- a $2.3M Cap Savings.
2. Move to the big man, Anthondy Adams-- a $1.75M Cap Savings
3. Nick Roach a $2.8M Cap Savings
4. Patrick Mannely $1M Cap Savings
5. Marion Barber $2.5M
6. Chris Spencer $3.5M
I'm not suggeting that we cut all these guys at all. But let's assume that we let go of OMG and four others- 5 vets in total (maybe not all listed above but also some younger guys with questionable futures- Wooton, Sanzenbahcher, JT Thomas, etc.) As a result of this we save another $5.5M in 2012 Cap space(almost 1/2 of which would come from OMG alone.)
That brings us down to 41 players but up to $43.5M in Cap space.
Forte gets the Franchise tag and that will cost us about $7.5M- so now we're back to $36M with 42 players.
Now let's say we resign 6 of the current FA vets who were on our roster last season (Okoye, Graham, Jennings, Stelz, Bell and K Davis) That is probably at least another $13M in Cap and it gets us to 48 players and a remaining cap of about $25M.
So, with $25M in cap space we need to fill out 5 more roster spots.
Here are some ideas of players and possible Cap Hits if we could structure good contracts:
1. Mario Williams $10-12M
2. Jermichael Finley/Other Top Tier WR $8-10M3.
3. Cliff Avril $8-10M
4. Carl Nicks $6-7M
5. Veteran Backup QB: $2-3M
6. Veteran Starting Quality LB: $4-6M
7. Veteran Quality Corner: $5-7M
8. Vet LB/Db Def Depth/ST contributor: $2M
9. Guy Looking for a new shot: $1M
The point is that in this scenario with probably $25M to spend on just about 5 spots, we can definitely do some serious damage. But, we DO have limits.
The biggest issue will be what do we do about guys like Lance Briggs who wants more, Urlacher who needs a new deal done this year, Henry Melton who needs a new deal and others. The smart move would be to use some of excess cap now to try to get these guys re-signed.
Anyway, we are definitely in a position to make some serious splashes in the FA market but we have to be aware of what happens after this year as well. A strong draft to start building for the future would certainly be a great way to start as well :)