A major part of the hiring of Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace was his multi-year vision of the future. The Bears are now in year-two of what has become a floor to ceiling rebuild of the roster & coaching staff, and while the results of the transition so far can clearly be debated, one thing that is for beyond dispute is that Chicago has a very clear path ahead when it comes to available resources.
By now you may be thinking "Ugh! Free Agency talk already? The season has just barely started!" While true, right now a large percentage of the work being done at Halas Hall is in the draft and free agency scouting departments. Free agency and the draft are year-round jobs.
There is only one major free agent on the Chicago Bears roster this off-season, Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is playing under the Franchise Tag for the Bears this season, earning $14.6 million. Due to league tag restrictions, the Bears cannot negotiate a new contract with Jeffery until after the end of the 2016 season. Chicago has the option to tag Jeffery again, it would cost the team $17.5 million.
Currently, according to Over The Cap, the Bears have just under $7.9 million in cap space left following the contract extensions for Willie Young and Kyle Long and signing of Josh Sitton. Any of that $7.9M that is left over at the end of the season can roll into next year's cap.
Chicago is currently 17th in the league in the amount of cap space remaining for 2016. The team with the most cap space remaining right now is the Cleveland Browns, with an obscene $49.8M available. The San Francisco has $45.1M, the Jaguars have $39.9 and the Titans have $24.8M left to spend. The Bears were in the $24M available range until the Young and Long extensions and Sitton signing.
In 2017, the picture changes dramatically. According to the 2017 Over The Cap figures, Chicago should have the fourth highest amount of money to spend in the league, approximately $55.7 million dollars. Tampa will have the most money available at $69M, followed by the Patriots at $67.1M and the Browns at $66.7. The Steelers round out the top five at $50.4M.
With the exception of Jeffery, the thought of losing any of the other 2017 Bears free agents does not strike a lot of fear into the hearts of fans in Chicago.
The following Bears of note will be FA's in 2017:
QB: Brian Hoyer & Connor Shaw (RFA)
FB: Paul Lasike
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Deonte Thompson, Joshua Bellamy (RFA) & Marquess Wilson
TE: Logan Paulsen & Greg Scruggs
OT: Mike Adams & Nick Becton
C: Eric Kush
DE: Cornelius Washington
OLB: Sam Acho
ILB: Christian Jones (RFA) & Jonathan Anderson (ERFA)
CB: Bryce Callahan (ERFA) & Jacoby Glenn (ERFA)
S: Chris Prosinski
K: Connor Barth
LS: Patrick Scales (ERFA)
Bottom line, other than a major decision to be made on Alshon Jeffery, the Bears are sitting pretty for the 2017 off season and have plenty of "dry powder" to both sign free agents and reward their own players with extensions.
What do you think of the Bears situation looking forward?