I don’t have all the answers; nobody does. But the information out there for fans these days is available aplenty, and the combined insight of many always helps to paint the best picture. So, as we set the stage for NFL Free Agency in this piece as it specifically relates to the Chicago Bears, I’ll do my best here to link you up to some good external info.
For all intents and purposes, guys and gals, the start of the 2013 NFL Free Agency period is tonight. Yep. The league has now made it legal to begin full negations with unrestricted free agents as of 11:00 P.M. CST, although contracts may not be officially inked until the start of the new league year on Tuesday, March 12 at 3:00 P.M. CST.
This is something that has always been done, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune explains, but it is now an officially sanctioned activity. The negotiating period and all the ins and outs of the Free Agency process are explained for you in this Q&A released by the league on Thursday.
The Bears have already been engaged in negations with some of their own in-house free agents, Brian Urlacher most notable among them. According to multiple reports from Pro Football Talk, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, Urlacher and his agent have submitted the terms of a new deal to the team and are awaiting a counter offer.
The Bears’ current salary cap situation has been very well documented on this site here, here, here and here, just to name a few. You can bring yourself up to speed to some degree with anyone of those, but the slow and skinny of it is that as of today Phil Emery has about $4M to play with. And that’s about how much he’ll need just to sign his draft picks, let alone Brian Urlacher and others.
“Others” could mean any or all of the following and then some: Nate Collins, Lance Louis, Jonathan Scott, Israel Idonije and Nick Roach. So as not to rehash too much (much of this discussion can be found in the linked “here’s” above), I’ll leave it at that. Long story short, the Bears have to begin creating cap space just to sign their own let alone external UFAs.
I’ve been asked many times now if the Bears can simply sign external free agents beginning Tuesday and worry about how to get under the cap at a later date (you guys must have a lot of credit card debt). The short answer is no. Teams must be under the cap the very second Free Agency begins and must remain under it throughout the offseason and into the regular season.
More detail on that from 670 The Score blogger Dan Durkin here.
The penalty for going over the cap can range from hefty fines to forfeiture of draft picks, subject to the league’s discretion, so it’s not a good idea—just ask the Cowboys and Redskins. Corresponding moves, however, can occur. So say the Bears sign a guy whose contract would put them over, if they have a guy on the roster they can cut to clear the space needed, they can then do so.
But the Bears aren’t going to release anyone who will give them enough space to sign a big fish straight away on Tuesday. In order to do that, they’d likely have to also restructure some deals and/or extend some current players, which they have yet to do. Those scenarios can also be found in the “here’s” above. Additionally, if they can come to terms on a long-term deal with Henry Melton, they can significantly reduce his cap hit for 2013.
So, that brings us to what we might expect the Bears to do this week. Given their current situation, I do expect said extensions, restructures and roster cuts. I also remain optimistic that they will indeed bring in help from the outside, but my gut tells me those players will be depth moves and not instant starters.
But I think something we all understand is, with Phil Emery at the helm, to be prepared for the unexpected. He and Cliff Stein may find ways to secure a bigger name in Free Agency, or they may get creative with the names they do bring in. As Sean Jensen of the Sun-Timesspeculates this morning, one target sailing below the radar could be offensive guard Brandon Moore.
According to Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago, the Bears have indeed “explored the addition of Moore.”
Another, much bigger name that has been speculated upon is tight end Jared Cook. My personal opinion is that the linked post’s headline here may be a tad misleading, but I do not completely exclude this as being an option and even talked about Cook in a post I did over a month ago, saying:
Jared Cook (TEN) – At 26, he’s still young and he’s talented. He’s a fantastic athlete, and he could make sense as a player actively looking for a better fit elsewhere. And who wouldn’t want to catch passes from Jay Cutler? (Wait, haters … don’t answer that.) Cook is by no means a sure-fire bet, but he’s a much better option than anyone on the current roster.
Another place the Bears may look to the external market is to address their backup quarterback situation. There’s essentially zero chance Jason Campbell is brought back at anywhere near the $3.5M the Bears paid him last season, and he will draw interest as an unrestricted free agent. If he wants to stay in town, he needs to pony up a discount, and I’m not sure why he would do that.
Some other QB options out there, as speculated upon by Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune might be guys like Chase Daniel, Matt Leinart, Matt Moore, Rex Grossman and others. The team’s own Josh McCown could be a cheap option, as I’ve suggested in the past.
Looking for other positions specifically? Well, in this piece from Gregg Rosenthal on NFL.com, he attempts to rank the top-85 free agents of 2013.
What it all boils down to, kids, as we prepare for a whirlwind of NFL news next week, is that the Bears could be in for a relatively quiet offseason with a Draft-centric focus, just the way Phil Emery promised to build this team moving forward.
More questions on Free Agency and the Chicago Bears? I’d be happy to answer any and all in the comments section below!
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Filed under: Free Agency