The Chicago Bears are in a pretty good spot heading into 2022’s free agency period, but there are a few moves Ryan Poles and Co. could make to better their position over the next couple of weeks.
So, let’s put on our general manager hats and figure out what moves the Bears should make in order to add more to their wallets before free agency begins.
Extend LB Roquan Smith
New head coach Matt Eberflus knows what a stud middle linebacker can do for his defense. I mean, he did have All-Pro Darius Leonard in the middle of his defenses over the last four seasons with the Colts.
Smith isn’t Leonard, but he’s easily one of the better MIKE linebackers in the game. Right now, he is set to count a little over $9.7 million against the cap in 2022.
$9.7 million for four straight seasons of 100+ tackles, at least one interception and a minimum of 2.0 sacks in each season is a bargain. It’s safe to assume all 31 other teams would shell out $9.7 mil for that type of production.
But the best part about Smith’s 2022 salary is that could be even less if the Bears decided to extend Smith.
Hypothetically, the Bears could give Smith a new four-year, $60 million deal that includes something to the tune of a $25 million signing bonus. They could then drop Smith’s base salary to $1.035 million and add the subtracted remainder (around $8.7 million) to the bonus to make it around $33.7 million, total.
That amount would then prorate over Smith’s five years. In all, Smith’s cap hit would drop to around $7.94 million, which would save almost $2 million against the cap. Ryan Poles could even add a void year to the end of the deal, which would drop the cap hit to around $6.82 million. So, Smith would not only make and additional $25 million this year, but he’d also be among the top-4 players at his position in terms of AAV in 2022.
Extending one of your best players and saving money against the cap? Sounds like a no-brainer, to me.
Restructure G Cody Whitehair
Whitehair is considered the best offensive lineman on the team and he still has four years left on his deal, including 2022.
He’s due to make $8 million in base salary this year and has a prorated bonus counting $4.2 million against the cap. The Bears could drop Whitehair’s base salary down to $1.12 million and convert the remaining $6,880,000 into a signing bonus. Spreading that over four years comes out to $1,720,000 a year.
Add that to the aforementioned $4.2 million and $1.12 million and you have Whitehair’s cap hit drop from $12.3 million in 2022 to a modest $7,040,000, which saves a little more than $5 million.
Trade OLB Khalil Mack
This is probably blasphemous and I’ll likely never be able to set foot in Chicago again after this. But, at least give me a minute to explain myself.
Mack’s cap hit over the next three seasons is $30+ million, $28+ million, and $26+ million, which is unsustainable. Yes, he’s one of the best pass rushers over the last 5-6 years, but that type of cap hit is usually reserved for quarterbacks and no one else.
You can’t restructure Mack’s contract without adding more void years on to the deal and at this point, the Bears may be better off trading Mack and getting some much-needed draft picks in return. The Bears currently have five picks in this year’s draft and they’re without a first- and fourth-round pick.
Mack has also underperformed based off his salary. Numbers don’t mean everything and this is certainly the case with Mack. He affects the game in so many other ways than the box score. But, three straight seasons of less than 10.0 sacks, zero forced fumbles, and career-lows in quarterback hits and tackles for loss isn’t enough for what he’s getting paid.
The main factor will be outside interest. How much can the Bears get in return? It’s not going to be an earth-shattering return, or anything like that. And the Bears also have to ask themselves if saving $6 million is worth getting rid of the future Hall of Famer.
There’s a lot that will go into the decision of what to do with Mack and it’ll be interesting to see the final outcome.
And of course, there are roster cuts to be made. Here are some logical moves that would help create cap space. But keep in mind, you’ve gotta sign guys to replace these guys if they are in fact cut. So, the amount of savings is a bit less once you factor in the new salaries.
Regardless, the numbers on the right reflect cap savings.
- DL Eddie Goldman: $6,660,407
- QB Nick Foles: $3,000,000
- RB Tarik Cohen: $2,250,000
Featured image via-Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports