The Chicago Bears are in a good situation having the #1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. However, they are also in great shape in terms of their salary cap space.
This is shaping up to be a huge offseason for the Chicago Bears. Many experts felt that last offseason was big. General Manager Ryan Poles had the #1 pick in the draft. He took full advantage of that. He traded the pick to the Carolina Panthers for a haul that ended up being offensive lineman Darnell Wright, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, this year’s #1 pick, and a second-round pick next year.
Oh, and he had the Panthers throw in wide receiver D.J. Moore. Moore ended up having a career year. He finished sixth in receiving with 1,364 yards. Additionally, he finished eighth in receiving touchdowns with eight. He and quarterback Justin Fields had instant chemistry.
The reason Poles was able to insist on having Moore was because of the immense salary cap space the Bears had. He spent the 2022 offseason shedding money and signed players to one-year contracts on team-friendly terms. Yes, the Bears took a hit on the field (finishing 3-14 and losing their final 10 games), but Poles had the #1 pick and $110 million to spend.
Moore had a $20.165 million cap hit in 2023. Without the moves Poles made the Bears would not be able to take on that big of a hit. Now, his cap hit is $16.050 million each for the next two seasons.
This offseason, Poles once again has the #1 pick in the draft. While everyone is debating whether he should trade the pick or trade Fields, they overlook the fact that he also has another good chunk of cap space. This is how they compare to other teams in terms of cap space:
- Washington Commanders: $73,649,626
- Tennessee Titans: $68,120,341
- New England Patriots: $66,102,006
- Cincinnati Bengals: $59,436,373
- Indianapolis Colts: $58,923,573
- Detroit Lions: $58,924,573
- Houston Texans: $57,871,790
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $47,156,102
- Chicago Bears: $46,876,157
- Arizona Cardinals: $42,183,130
As you can see, the Chicago Bears currently rank ninth in the league in cap space with almost $47 million. That puts them in good shape to find free agents to help fill in some of the holes still on the roster. Poles stated in his introductory press conference that he wanted to build through the draft to have a good, young core. He would use free agency to complement the draft.
In 2023, that is what he did. In the draft, he prioritized getting an offensive line in the first round. He found Wright. Later, he prioritized the defensive side of the football and found defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens. He also selected cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
Poles had a fat wallet and used his money well
Remember that the Chicago Bears had a hole at linebacker. Poles and Roquan Smith could not come to terms on a new contract so Smith got traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a second-round pick. The Bears had Jack Sanborn but not much behind him.
With the money Poles had he was able to sign T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds. Smith was looking for $100 million. Instead, he spent $91.5 million to get two top-ten linebackers. Adding in Sanborn, the Bears had one of the best linebackers unit in the league.
Poles was prudent with his money and had plenty to spend. He also signed offensive lineman Nate Davis, running back D’Onta Foreman, and defensive tackle Andrew Billings, each of whom was a key asset for the team.
Even more could be saved
While Poles and the Chicago Bears are in good shape with their salary cap, things will likely become even better. There are cuts Poles can make to free up more space. These are players who have struggled with injury or age and are no longer in the team’s plans.
For example, safety Eddie Jackson, offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, and defensive end DaMarcus Walker likely are on their way out. Age and injury are catching up with Jackson and Whitehair. Walker was one of the free agents Poles brought in last year. However, he struggled mightily, recording just 3.5 sacks. The Bears need to have someone complement Montez Sweat.
Just with those three players, the Chicago Bears could save about $32.4 million. That is an extra 69 percent available to spend. The Bears would be major spenders again. Imagine how many more pieces Poles could find to fill holes.
If Poles has another successful offseason it could usher in the beginning of a new era of winning Chicago Bears football.
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