Monday, May 27, 2024

A Cap Casualty The Chicago Bears Will Likely Be All Over


It is easy to forget that the free agent market isn’t set in stone just yet. More players are going to become available over the next month. Several more. Teams work to clear salary cap space they need or unload players they no longer feel are worth the money. The common term used for such players is “cap casualties.” Every year, there are a handful of such cuts that put some good talent on the market. Talent the Chicago Bears might be inclined to take advantage of.

The Athletic NFL staff released a detailed column of one player from each team that is most likely a cap casualty in the coming weeks. While several notable names inhabited the list, one that stood out was Jacksonville Jaguars center, Brandon Linder. The veteran has been the anchor of their offensive line for years. A huge lynchpin on that 2017 AFC championship team. It is surprising to hear he could be gone despite only being 30-years old.

Greg Auman explained the reasoning behind it.

“Linder has played more than nine games just once in the past four seasons, consistently sidelined with injuries. There’s no dead cap if the Jaguars decide to shed his contract as he enters the final year of a five-year, $51 million deal. Backup Tyler Shatley is as old as Linder at 30, so it’s possible the Jaguars look to the draft or free agency for a replacement.”

It is hard to argue that. The best ability is availability, as the saying goes. Missing 15 games in the past two seasons must be incredibly frustrating for the Jaguars. With a new regime in charge, they may seek more stability in the middle for young QB Trevor Lawrence. All of that said, expect the Bears to be one of the teams interested in bringing him aboard as their starting center.

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The injury risks are a valid concern. Even so, Linder would be worth it. He has consistently been one of the top centers in the NFL for years. Nobody knows that because he’s played his entire career in Jacksonville. So here is some context. Sam Mustipher has allowed 41 pressures on the quarterback since 2020. A total of 1,047 snaps. Linder has allowed 76 pressures on the quarterback since 2014. A total of 3,752 snaps.

He would upgrade a big spot for the Chicago Bears

This team hasn’t had somebody of that caliber at center for the past decade. Not since Olin Kreutz departed. Even if he’s a short-term solution, signing Linder would be such a huge benefit to Justin Fields. Just like it was to Lawrence who played three of his five best games of last season when Linder was snapping him the ball. He was also a big help to guys like Blake Bortles and Gardner Minshew.

The reality is the Chicago Bears aren’t going to find long-term solutions to every roster problem this offseason. They don’t have the necessary draft capital. So GM Ryan Poles will have to settle for some short-term options. Linder would be perfect. Having him at center would allow the Bears to focus on offensive tackle or guard in the draft. Not to mention wide receiver. If he can stay relatively healthy, it isn’t hard to imagine him having two or three more good years left.

It comes down to the price tag.

Linder is making just over $10 million per year on his current contract. Given his age and the recent injury setbacks, it isn’t hard to imagine a team can get him at a discount if and when he hits the market. Best of all he wouldn’t count against the compensatory pick formula if Poles does indeed aim to build through the draft.

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