I have been sitting here for the past 24 hours or so trying to understand what the Chicago Bears were doing about their salary cap mess and scratching my head.
According to league rules all 32 teams had to be at or below the cap at 3 p.m. Wednesday based on the total of their 51 highest paid players. Massaging it as best I could – knowing they’d saved about $26 million reworking Khalil Mack’s and Eddie Jackson’s deals and releasing Bobby Massie and Buster Skrine, along with the re-signing of Cairo Santos, Germain Ifedi and Patrick O’Donnell, plus the signing of Andy Dalton – it just didn’t make sense.
They didn’t appear to be close to where they needed to get.
Now, the other shoe has dropped.
I never report news off of Twitter and that’s all I have as I write this, but this one must be true because there is no other ready explanation as to how the Bears could be at or under the cap without releasing Kyle Fuller.
Fuller had the highest cap hit on the team, including $9 million in dead money, so they will save about $11 million by releasing him.
Several sources are telling me the team asked Fuller to take a substantial paycut to stay and he wisely declined.
The team’s problem, of course, is they’ve now gone from potentially the best secondary in football only 12 months ago to it being a potentially serious weak spot on a defense trying to reinvent itself.
In Eddie Jackson they have a 2018 All Pro safety who has been invisible – and a problem when he wasn’t – over the past season and a half or so. The team also has no starter next to him, only a promising rookie corner in Jaylon Jonson, who’s had multiple shoulder injuries and missed the last quarter of last season with a shoulder injury, and apparently a pair of Day 3 draft picks in Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley. Both are complete unknowns at this point to plug into Fuller’s and Skrine’s spots.
Sure, it could work out, but it also has all the makings of a train wreck.
No, Fuller isn’t a $20 million a year player but his cap hit was that high because the Bears already had reworked his deal a few times after re-signing him three years ago.
His base salary of about $11 million was a bargain.
It has been a really difficult week for Bears fans, especially considering this came on the heels of the news that the Bears had given QB Andy Dalton $10 million and told him he was the starter, all while Mitch Trubisky – a better player over the past four seasons than Dalton – was signing in Buffalo for $2.5 million to back up Josh Allen.
There is no right or wrong in matters like these until they are given a chance to play out, but there are basic facts, questions of motivation for the moves and the need to own them a year or two from now. But, for now at least, this all just looks really bad for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
If this is what they’re doing to try and save their jobs – if in fact those jobs are in jeopardy, which also is not a known but an assumption being taken as fact by many – Lord help them.
When Pace and Nagy have talked about being not that far away and believing they saw a path to contention it was believable if they could re-create their 2018 defense, build a dominant running game behind an upgraded offensive line and find a quarterback who could avoid losing and manage wins.
Obviously, a franchise quarterback would be better, but we’ve known from the start they didn’t have the assets to make that happen.
Now they’ve given the QB job to a guy who will manage some wins but also create some losses. So far they appear ready to bring back the same failed offensive line and weakened the defense to a point where a 2018 revival appears out of the question.
Yes, it’s only the second day of free agency and the draft still looms, but this is just an awful start. It’s getting harder and harder for Bears fans to find hope anywhere.