The last couple weeks we've done some work explaining varying aspects of the salary cap and looking at the team in various financial ways, and today we'll do the same by position group. Again, our friends at Spotrac are great at putting salaries and cap hits in accessible fashion, and we'll be happy to use their numbers for this little exercise.
First off, there are two notes I left out of last week's Rule of 51 explanation, so let's hit that first.
The Rule of 51 is the offseason guiding rule for salary cap hits. The top 51 players in cap hit are carried on the cap, and can be bumped off as higher-cap players are added. Any contractual guaranteed money (such as signing bonus) or other amount of dead money are always carried on the cap, but aside from that, a player's salary is completely removed from the cap picture once a higher-cap player is signed.
The two notes I forgot to mention or did not make clear: Once training camp/preseason ends and the roster is reduced to its gameday 53, all 53 players count on the cap.
The other is that, for bottom of the roster players, you can view their cap hits as money still spendable. This means that in addition to last week's stated Rule of 51 Cap Room of $23,887,633, the Bears will still have 36 players to sign. Let's assume that the Bears replace all of their upcoming free agents (so, 22 players) with players that will impact the Rule of 51. Even replacing just the bottom eleven on the roster (knocking them from the Top 51), that gives the Bears another $5,279,288 of cap impact to play with. The next ten players on the list give another $5,145,401. Remove David Bass and this year's fourth round pick from the list, and that's another $1,138,172. The bottom 22 players in the current Top 51 are a grand total of $11,562,861 of removable cap hit, which means the Bears can spend approximately $35 million on those 22 replacements to the Top 51.
Keep in mind some of those signings will be straight monetary replacements, especially in the UDFA or veteran minimums, but it also means there's a little more flexibility to sign an extra starter or two. It's just an approximation, and it's just a little something I wanted to put into numbers, but it just emphasizes that things look pretty decent from the cap perspective.
Talking about signing starters is a good way to segue into the rest of this post: Where the Bears are currently spending their money. While I don't want to just copy the entire Spotrac chart, I'll just link it here and mention some key points.
Let's start with defensive line, particularly the ends (this still uses last year's defensive nomenclature, when we're not sure who goes where in 2015), where the Bears are spending the most money (and third in the league at the position). Last year's three free agent signings (Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young) all predictably lead the chart here, and with Allen's massive cap hit, Houston's guaranteed year and Young's production last year, there probably won't be much significant movement.
Meanwhile, the tackle picture has room for a lot of movement, especially if the Bears don't resign Stephen Paea. Jeremiah Ratliff's contract leads the chart here, with last year's two draft picks (Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton) and Brandon Dunn bringing up the rear. The Bears will probably add at least one giant space eating nose tackle via the draft or free agency, and probably another one or two as well.
Let's move to kicker next to right a wrong, because last week I didn't mention that cutting Robbie Gould frees up a couple million. That being said, the Bears will probably kick a little more on fourth down than they did last year, especially later in the season, and maybe Gould doesn't get hurt again. Maybe if the Bears felt like they had found an option, but Gould probably won't be cut right now.
On to everybody's favorite topic, quarterback, to point out that the Bears are 12th in the league in quarterback spending (down from third over the NFL last season). They'll probably bring in another quarterback to at least go to camp with three, if not four (anybody remember the Trent Edwards experience?).
At linebacker, did you know Shea McClellin is currently the team's most expensive linebacker per the cap at about $2.6 million? He'll have a dead cap hit of about $1.8 million if cut, a savings of 800K. Rush linebacker (or linebacker, period) will be a interesting position to follow this offseason. Safety will also get a ton of attention; with only three players under contract and spending the seventh least in the NFL currently, there is significant investment to be had here.
Along the offensive line, Jordan Mills is the only player listed at right tackle; there will at least be competition there. The same with Roberto Garza at center.
As far as some actual good spots to be in, the Bears are doing pretty well as receiver and running back; receiver has seven players signed for about 13.3 million, 12th highest in the league, and while they currently spend the fourth-most in the league on running backs, Matt Forte's contract will be off the books next year, with a lot of room to either re-sign him or add another starter or backup for far less than eight million.
What are some of your thoughts on the team's positional spending? Do you think the Bears have enough money to spot-fill all their holes?