Phil Emery has proved to be a popular man among Bears fans for his meticulous approach, his attention to detail and analytical methods which give hope that he actually knows what he is talking about. His open and willingness to speak, in detail, about his methods and thought process are refreshing to fans used to being talked down to by GMs and the answers give logical insight into why decisions are made.
The latest endearing move was when on the opening day of free agency he signed tight end Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod, while staying under the cap and filling the teams biggest areas of need.
The signings weren't just great for the obvious roster holes they filled, but also because Emery was able to give himself tremendous flexibility when the team gets on the clock come April 25.
Furthermore, unlike contracts typically signed on the opening day of free agency, they are not necessarily as restrictive.
For example, Bushrod's deal is for five years, $35.965 million with $22.465 million is guaranteed, his signing bonus was $11 million. This year, his actual salary will be a paltry $765,000. The guaranteed portions are his first two base salaries ($765,000 and $5 million, respectively) plus his $11 million signing bonus. Sure, he will be 33 in the last year of his deal but he will likely still be playing at a high level and his year-to-year numbers are far less of a burden than Julius Peppers' deal.
The cap numbers for his deal are as follows: 2013: $3.015 million, 2014: 7.3 million, 2015: $8.05 million, 2016: $8.7 million, 2017: $8.9 million.
Bushrod's deal is very similar to that of the Giants' Will Beatty, which is five years, $37.5 million with $19 million guaranteed. Beatty is a year younger than Bushrod though. It's also not entirely far off the numbers that RT Gosder Cherilus got from the Colts; five years, $34.5 million with $15.5 guaranteed. However, as I said, Cherilus is a RT and is about the same age as Bushrod. When he is 33, the Colts will be paying him $7 million, whereas the Bears will be paying future Bushrod $6.6; not a heck of a lot cheaper, but the latter is a left tackle and considered a more premium player.
Bennett's deal, in my opinion, is an even better bargain for the Bears. Bennett signed a 4-year, $20.4 million, including $5.215 million guaranteed and a $4.5 million signing bonus. However, on the third day of the 2014 league year, a full $9.215 million becomes guaranteed. So if after one season Bennett implodes or becomes a distraction or whatever, the Bears can get out without owning huge guarantees to him.
Bennett's cap numbers are such: 2013: $1.94 million, 2014: $6.025 million, 2015: $6.125 million, 2016: $6.31 million.
Bennett, a true, well-rounded TE, will stay on the field for three downs, not only restricting opponents' abilities to key in on packages but also allowing for a more economical "dollars per snap."
By contrast, the Rams signed Jared Cook to a 5-year, $35.1 million deal with $19 million guaranteed. His deal also has a $3 million roster bonus and will pay him $7 million in each of the last two years of the deal. Cook and Bennett are the same age, by the way. NBC Sports says Cook's deal could swell to $38.5 million with incentives.
Cook is not known for his blocking like Bennett is and thus, his likely "dollars per snap" figure could be entirely skewed from Bennett's. Now, that could become moot if he ends up having five straight 70 catch, 1,000 yard seasons but he hasn't sniffed those numbers yet in his career. Plus, according to Pro-Football Focus, last season Bennett played 945 snaps to Cook's 485. If that happens this year, that would mean Bennett would make $5,624 per snap (his $4.5 million signing bonus + $715,000 base salary in 2013 and his $100,000 workout bonus divided by 945) while Cook would make $16,494 per snap (Cook's '13 salary is $3 million plus his $5 million signing bonus).
The Bears, I think, got the better deal.
Plus, consider that the Bears used Bennett to essentially replace two players in Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis while the Rams will need to carry at least one other "blocking" TE.
Emery and his ace contract negotiator Cliff Stein were able to fill the team's glaring needs, not break the bank and give the team incredible flexibility come next month's draft.
Who says there's no such thing as a win-win-win?