The Chicago Bears’ roster is constantly being evaluated and re-evaluated by its front office with an eye towards the coming season and beyond. They know exactly how each player’s contract affects the team in both the short term and the long term. So when they draft the best player available on their board, which happens to be at a position of strength, they realize they may need to makes some tough choices at some point.
Competition can bring out the best in athletes, so by adding Riley Ridley in the fourth round and Emanuel Hall as an undrafted free agent, Chicago’s receiver’s room is suddenly stacked.
In our latest WCG offseason roundtable topic we wanted to look ahead to the 2020 season for a potential cap casualty that could be a ripple effect from the Bears’ 2019 rookie class.
Last year’s starters, Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel, along with second year pro Anthony Miller, and free agent pickup Cordarrelle Patterson are all virtual locks to make the team this year. Javon Wims made the 53-man roster last year as a seventh-round pick with upside, and he figures to be in their plans in 2019 as well.
Every one of those players mentioned are signed at least through the 2020 season, but none have a cap hit that would prevent a move from being made after this season. GM Ryan Pace has made it a point to give the team a comfortable out on most of their free agent pickups. If the two young prospects develop like the team hopes, the Bears could be enticed to make a cost cutting decision with one of the veterans.
The one vet that seems to be the most likely to go, even though he’s coming off a career best 67 receptions and 688 yards, is Taylor Gabriel. Letting him go after 2019 would only result in $2 million in dead cap space.
Here’s what some of our writers said when asked about a possible cap casualty next offseason. Gabriel was a frequent mention, but a few other Bears we’re brought up as well.
“I agree that Taylor Gabriel could be a potential cap casualty, depending on how the younger receivers on the roster perform this year. The Bears now have not one, but two young, talented Z receivers in Riley Ridley and Emanuel Hall on their roster, and both are younger and cheaper options than Gabriel at that position. While the veteran is a reliable target who offers a lot of speed to the offense, he could be released to save money if either of the rookies show enough promise in 2019.” ~ Jacob Infante
“The one player I feel is at risk to becoming a cap casualty is Taylor Gabriel. Anthony Miller is already making a case to being a full-time starter on offense. Meanwhile, the Bears wound up picking Riley Ridley out of Georgia when he fell to their laps in the 4th round. Eventually, there will be a log jam at receiver, and tough choices will have to be made.” ~ Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter
“Obviously Taylor Gabriel is going to be looking over his shoulder, but I think that Trey Burton could be a player who suddenly is looking for work in 2020. Many analysts seem to be high on UDFA signee Dax Raymond, plus if Adam Shaheen turns into a bigger contributor, suddenly Burton could be jettisoned. Also Prince Amukamara would be an easy cap casualty. “ ~ Sam Householder
“Almost every Bear with a large contract should be in this conversation. Prince Amukamara, Taylor Gabriel, Danny Trevathan... all of these guys are awesome Bears with uncertain futures that depend on what we want to do in 2020. I fully expect either Riley Ridley or Javon Wims to replace Taylor Gabriel, Amukamara could be cut if Shelley bumps Skrine back outside, Trevathan could be replaced by a cheaper ILB to pair with Roquan... the Bears have (italics) tons (end italics) of options that’ll become clearer as the 2019 season plays out. I will say this though -- I think Allen Robinson is someone they’ll try to hold onto for as long as they can. Many of our other cut candidates are the second option at their position (Amukamara, Gabriel) so cutting them makes sense, but to cut our #1 WR before we have a replacement ready poor decision-making.” ~ Robert Schmitz
Aaron Leming went into detail, so I’ll give his response the blockquote treatment below.
I think there a few players to keep an eye on this year and this is how I would rank them.
1. WR Taylor Gabriel
2. CB Prince Amukamara
3. OL Kyle Long
As far as Gabriel goes, he’s in a deep group of receivers and now he’s not the only speed option. Most of his guaranteed money is up after 2019 and I don’t think they can afford an expensive group of receivers, especially with this much talent for too much longer.
With Amukamara, there’s no current replacement on the roster. That is unless Kevin Toliver or Stephen Denmark develop and develop in a hurry. But in terms of money, I’m not sure they can afford to pay both he and Fuller starting in 2020.
Lastly, Long is probably an obvious one. When healthy he is still good. Not as good as he was but health has been the biggest issue. He’s landed on Injured Reserve three straight years and will be over the age of 30 in 2020.
“Controversy time here, but... I know he’s still going to be young, but Allen Robinson needs to have a really big year this season or else he may be on the trading block. His guaranteed money will be nearly gone by 2020 ($2M dead money only) and have a $13M cap hit if he’s on the team. I would be surprised if both Robinson and Taylor Gabriel are both 2020 Bears.
If Anthony Miller takes the next step and Riley Ridley is anything at all, one of Robinson or Gabriel will get the boot (at least).” ~ Ken Mitchell
The Bears kept six wide outs on the 53-man roster a year ago, but they didn’t dress all six on game day. Being able to run down and cover on kickoffs and punts could give someone an edge, but ultimately it’ll come down to which receivers know their assignments best and can catch the ball.
As far as this season is concerned, an injury could factor into the roster make-up. Depending on the wide outs perform during preseason, the Bears may be able to flip one for a draft pick.
The practice squad is an option for Wims and Hall, but the upside on both would make it a risk to try and get them through waivers. Keeping seven wide outs on the 53-man roster could be a possibility, especially since Patterson will factor in as a running back on occasion, but what position takes the hit then?
We get that this is some extremely early speculation, but that’s what the offseason is for!
Do you think Gabriel is playing his last year in Chicago?
Could the Bears carry 7 wide outs in 2019?
Sound off in the comment section!