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Bears mailbag: A potential Robbie Gould reunion, limited cap space, tight end depth and more

After a few weeks off, we are back at it with this week’s mailbag, which is jam-packed with everything you’ll need to know leading up into the 2019 offseason.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is right around the corner and April’s draft is growing closer. With the “legal tampering period” just under three weeks away on March 11th, things should start heating up quickly. The NFL combine is just a week away, which means rumors will start to fly and the Chicago Bears upcoming offseason plans should come more into focus starting next week.

Now, it’s no secret that on the surface the Bears are limited in the resource department. Even so, the team will still have multiple opportunities to improve their overall roster, but general manager Ryan Pace will have to get creative with both cap space and with his limited draft picks. The good news? All of that will come into focus soon.

For those wondering, it’s been a busy few weeks for me personally, so I’ll be using some questions from a few weeks ago. Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag.

All in all, I’m not too worried.

For Bears fans, it’s understandable to look on websites like Over The Cap or Spotrac and get a little worried with their lack of cap space (projected to be under $10 million as of now). A few things to keep in mind, though.

- Cuts and internal cap maneuvering like Dion Sims, Kyle Long, and maybe even some other veterans have not been made yet.

- Unlike previous years, the Bears don’t have a ton of needs. As of now, they only have two starters set to hit the market and upgrades at kicker, running back and punter to be made as well. Depth will be another focus, but this isn’t a team that is looking for six-to-eight new starters like they were just a year ago.

- The NFL has shown that cap space can be a myth. Looking at teams like the Saints and Chiefs, it’s not hard to remember those teams having “negative” cap space heading into the new league year. Somehow each year, they not only get back in the positive, but they make a few moves to improve their teams. The Bears aren’t at that level, which should make fans feel good.

The ultimate reality for this team is simple. They don’t have a ton of needs, but I also wouldn’t expect Pace to sit back and watch the market pass them by. They have enough resources to retain some players and make a few improvements. Teams in their Super Bowl windows have a tendency of making things work under the cap. The Bears should be no different.

I’m not sure I can see Robbie Gould taking a “pay cut.” But I’m also not sure he’ll need to. The main thing to keep in mind before diving into the prospect of Gould too seriously is whether or not the 49ers will franchise tag him or not. At this point, a tag seems likely.

49ers general manager John Lynch still holds all the control whether or not that is a tag or exclusive negotiating rights for another few weeks before players officially hit the market. This is the biggest hurdle to clear if a Gould return is even possible.

Now, it’s worth noting that there have been a few reports that San Francisco and Gould aren’t close in numbers, which could lead to him hitting the market on March 13th if they don’t tag him. If that is the case, that obviously opens up a big door for the Bears to fix their kicking situation. If that does happen, I’d expect Gould to see three-to-four years, at around $4 million per year.

In terms of cap space, Parkey’s dead money ultimately only impacts the Bears for 2019. That’s something they can work around and should not impact their long-term plans.

Outside of the Eagles the past two seasons, I think most teams are screwed if their starting quarterback goes down and the Bears are no different.

While the Bears were able to go (1-1) with Mitchell Trubisky out of the lineup in 2018, it was pretty evident that their offense wasn’t nearly as explosive or dangerous with Chase Daniel under center.

No matter who is the team’s backup, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a team to maintain the same level of play if their starting quarterback goes down and the Bears are no different. That’s just a harsh reality for almost every team in the NFL.

It’s amazing that this is even a question, yet here we are.

For those of you that don’t follow the MLB, both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (two of the biggest and best names in the game of baseball) are still unsigned, despite baseball’s free agency starting back in November. Teams have reported for spring training and yet two of the biggest players in the game have still yet to sign. That would be like Khalil Mack hitting free agency and still being unsigned heading into August when the preseason starts.

With that all being said, I would think that both Machado and Harper would be signed by the middle of March. Now it’s possible Gould could be tagged or sign an extension before the start of free agency, but assuming he doesn’t, I’m going to say both star baseball players are signed before Gould gets the chance to test the NFL free agency market.

I wouldn’t rule the Bears bringing back one if not both players. Ben Braunecker will become a Restricted Free Agent, but I can’t see the Bears tendering him a contract that would give him over $2 million for the 2019 season. If they choose not to tender him, he would become an Unrestricted Free Agent and could sign with any team. The Bears could still bring him back on a more cost controlled deal, though.

As far as Daniel Brown goes, he is an Unrestricted Free Agent and could opt to find a bigger role elsewhere. I can’t imagine there will be a big market for him, so he could find himself in a similar situation to Braunecker in terms of coming back.

I would expect them to re-sign at least one of the two, but I could also see them looking for an upgrade whether that be on the free agent market on in the mid rounds of the draft.

Sam Acho falls into the same category as guys like Kyle Long, Bradley Sowell and a few others for me.

The Bears have reached a point where they can’t afford to overpay for role players, but also have to balance the value of leadership. From an on the field standpoint, Acho is replaceable. He also has a $2.375 million cap hit. If the Bears were to cut him, they’d see only $250,000 in dead money.

Cutting Acho isn’t that easy, though. Not only is he good depth and a very good special teamer, he also has played a huge role in the locker room and more importantly, has been very active off the field for the organization. It makes it even tougher when the team’s only proven depth player (Aaron Lynch) is also a free agent and may be following Vic Fangio to Denver.

As of now, I’d say that Acho is staying, but the Bears could approach him about a pay cut. It may not seem like much saved money, but the Bears may find themselves in a position where they have to band together a group of cuts that save them $1.5-$2 million per cut to gain some needed flexibility.