Demps, 32, was signed in last year’s free agency to be a veteran presence in the Bears’ back end. That didn’t come into fruition as Demps broke his arm and was then placed on injured reserve in Week 3 of the 2017 season. There was consideration of bringing him back with an injury to return designation later in the year, but after Adrian Amos enjoyed a resurgent year next to Eddie Jackson, the Bears elected not to use it.
Saying Demps’ lone season with the Bears was a failure because of his injury alone would be mistaken, however. In the three games he played with Chicago he failed to make a play on the ball: a ballhawk ability he was hailed for coming in. Once someone like Amos proved to be a better in-the-box defender that also didn’t force turnovers, the writing was on the wall for Demps’ future with the little guaranteed money he had on his contract.
Meanwhile, in the 29-year-old "I'm violent" McPhee's case, he was originally signed as a salvo pass rusher in the 2015 off-season. There was a reason his former team in the Ravens elected not to sign him back though and that was due to debilitating knee conditions: both of which severely hampered McPhee during his three years in Chicago. For a contract that payed him approximately $7 million each season, McPhee's total of 14 sacks and 36 games played overall were pricey. His release signifies a new direction at outside linebacker, at least symbolically, as the Bears desperately need more consistent pass rush edge depth behind 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd.
By releasing Demps now, the Bears save roughly $3 million in cap space with $600,000 in dead money for 2018. By releasing McPhee, the Bears save $7.1 million in cap space and retain just $1 million in dead money. With all of their releases to this point (we still have about two weeks to go!), Chicago sits at roughly $54 million in total cap space.
As Eddie Jackson grows more comfortable in his role while Amos works well next to him, Chicago will seek depth behind their primary safety duo elsewhere. The same goes for Floyd and a cleaner bill of health to go with a fresh partner on the opposite defensive edge.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and is a contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.