Yesterday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced that the NFL will raise it’s 2014 salary cap 5 percent. This means that the cap will move from a touch over $126 million to $130 million.
The cap rise will help cap strapped teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints but it will also help the Chicago Bears. The extra $4 million in space may raise asking prices from the initial Free Agent rush but it should ultimately help the Bears.
Cap guru Dan Durkin, from 670 The Score, projected the team to be $6.1 million under the cap before the announcement of the updated cap figure. The number provided by Durkin, are all after future contracts, the 2013 roll over, etc. With a cap rise of $4 mil, this now puts the Bears at $10.1 million in free cap space.
Teams will need to be under the $130 million cap by March 11th, as the new league year starts. With the Bears being under that initial number going into the new league year, they still have many hurdles to clear if they plan to be spenders this spring.
$10.1 million would be almost equal to what the team had going into last year’s Free Agency period. The Bears signed Jermon Bushrod, Martellus Bennett, Matt Slauson, DJ Williams, and James Anderson. All five players were day one starters and all counted as under a $8 million cap hit.
With many needs and limited money, general manager Phil Emery and contract negotiator Cliff Stein will once again have their work cut out for them.
Here are a few ways the Bears can create cap space.
The team has five players under contract that can provide quick cap relief. There are three different ways they can go about providing room for themselves.
Julius Peppers- With a $18,183,333 cap hit and $8,366,668 of that in dead money, a basic cut would save the team $9.8 million. They could also designate him as a one of their two June 1st cuts and save a total of $14 million. With that option, they would have to wait until that June 1st date for the money to come off the books. Peppers will provide the biggest relief, so don’t expect a June 1st designation.
Total Savings: $9.8-14 million
Michael Bush- Carrying a $3.8 million cap hit, $2 million of that is dead money. Cutting Bush before June 1st would provide $1.8 million in cap relief. If the team chooses to use the June 1st designation, they could save a total of $2.8 million, which essentially could make the most sense to help fund the draft class.
Total Savings: $1.8-2.8 million
Earl Bennett- Often injured and under used, Bennett could provide an immediate $2.45 million cap savings with no dead money. Bennett could also be a candidate for a pay cut.
Total Savings: $2.45 million
Eric Weems- In the last year of his contract, Weems has a $1.6 million hit but has $.5 million in dead space. Cutting Weems saves the team $1.1 million.
Total Savings: $1.1 million
Adam Podlesh- In the fourth year of his contract, he carries a $1.85 million cap hit with $.8 in dead space. Cutting him now saves $1.1 million, while a June 1st saves an extra $.4 million.
Total Savings: $1.1-1.5 million
Out of the five players that could potentially provide financial relief via cuts, two players could provide substantial savings while still keeping a roster spot.
Julius Peppers: While counting as $18.2 against the cap, cutting him saves $9.8 million. If he remains on the roster, his dead figure goes down to $4.15 million. Taking a base contract of anything under $4.4 million, helps the team save money, while not having to spend more on filling a roster spot. The Question still remains, will Peppers take a $13.8 million pay cut to remain on the team? That answer is looking like a very firm “No”.
Earl Bennett: Dealing with nagging injuries and being just the 5th target, Bennett may not be worth a $2.45 million salary. If they decided that he is not, Bennett has no dead money. While cutting him may be financially attractive, taking a similar pay cut to last year may be in the best interest of both sides. Playing for a $1 million base, makes more sense than a cut.
With these 5 players being main candidates to provide salary relief, this can help give the team close to $28 million in cap relief.
One must account for $3.5-5 million for the draft class and $3 million in space for season money. This will in turn knock the maximum cap number down to somewhere around $20 million in space.
Another fast way to create an extra $10-13 million in cap space, would be to use the “Automatic Conversion” clause. This clause was created in all of the recent contracts that were signed by Jay Cutler, Tim Jennings, Matt Slauson, Robbie Gould, and Tony Fiametta.
The “Automatic Conversion” clause would take a portion (up to $10 million in Cutler’s case) from his 2014 cap hit and spread that as a “bonus” through-out the life of his contract. It would also provide up to $10 million in extra space to use this year. It would need to be “paid back” in the coming years but could be a good option if they feel there is good value on the market.
Once the league year starts, the team may not go over the cap at any point. This is important to remember, especially when factoring in cap space to spending money.
– March 11th: Free Agency will be the first period, in which teams will have the chance to spend their savings on players outside of their roster. Projecting a mock off season can be tough with limited cap space and many different ways to create space.
– May 8th-10th: 2014 NFL Draft will be the second period that teams will need to set out $3.5-$5 million in cap space to sign their draft class and any Un-Drafted Free Agents they may to acquire.
– September 4th: This is the official start to the 2014 season. At this point the team will need another $3 million in space to have for emergency money.
On paper, the Bears don’t seem to have much cap space available, however with five major candidates for cuts or pay cuts and a handy clause devoted in each recently signed contract, the team can essentially create as much space as they want.
With that in mind, the team will still need to be cognizant in regards to how this year’s spending will effect future years’ cap space.