Of the 32 NFL teams, the Bears had the busiest first day of the free agent negotiating period Monday, and rightfully so, because they had more money to spend than any other team.
General manager Ryan Poles bolstered his defense over the first 24 hours with the additions of linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, previously with the Bills and Eagles, respectively. On the defensive line, he added defensive end DeMarcus Walker, formerly of the Titans. Offensively, the team agreed to terms with former Titans guard Nate Davis.
Edmunds received the biggest payday, with a four-year, $72 million contract that includes $50 million guaranteed. All in all, those four contracts will cost Poles and the Bears as much as $142.5 million, with $97.9 million guaranteed over the coming seasons [remember that none of these contracts can become official until Wednesday].
Combine that with the $20.1 million salary of receiver D.J. Moore, who the Bears acquired Friday in the trade involving the No. 1 overall draft pick, and Poles has cut his available salary cap space in half.
Before Friday’s trade, the Bears had $98 million to spend in 2023. As of Tuesday, that number is down to $44.9 million, according to OverTheCap.com.
Here’s what the salary cap hit looks like on all five new additions in 2023:
- WR D.J. Moore: $20.1 million
- LB Tremaine Edmunds: $14.7 million
- OG Nate Davis: $6.9 million
- DE DeMarcus Walker: $6.4 million
- LB T.J. Edwards: $5 million
Moore will be the highest-paid player on the team in 2023, ahead of safety Eddie Jackson. Edmunds will surpass Jackson as the highest-paid defender in 2024.
Edmunds, Davis, Walker and Edwards all will cost more money against the cap in 2024 than they do in 2023.
Poles had an absurd amount of salary cap space entering the week. He was always going to spend money this month. The NFL does have a salary minimum, of sorts: NFL teams must spend 89% of the salary cap over a four-year period. It was not so much a question of if Poles would spend, but how he would spend.
Those numbers above look big, but the free agent money Poles has spent so far remains relatively conservative. Yes, Edmunds will cost a lot, but Poles was able to get two linebackers for barely more than it would’ve cost him to keep Roquan Smith [and he added a second-round draft pick].
Poles remains far from finished spending. The Bears have added five players, but they have a roster that remains thin in certain areas. They do, of course, have 10 picks in the upcoming draft, but with another $44.9 million available, it seems possible that Poles might have one more big deal up his sleeve this week.
The Bears could be looking at additional help on the defensive line, particularly at defensive tackle. Walker is a nice addition at defensive end, but that doesn’t preclude the Bears from signing another pass rusher.
Reports surfaced Monday that the Bears were closing in on former 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey before the Broncos swooped in and signed him. Losing out on McGlinchey doesn’t mean the Bears are done at tackle. There still are several viable options out there. Former Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who might command the biggest payday of all the linemen, still is on the market.
Even with all they money they’ve already spent, the Bears remain in a favorable position. They also still have more cap space than any other NFL team, even after Monday’s spending spree.