The 2021 offseason could end up being called the Black Offseason. Why? Due to the expected large drop in the salary cap to around $175 million, it will put several teams either at or far over the cap. This means there could be a remarkably high number of veteran cuts in the coming months. The Chicago Bears could end up being among those teams.
Even with a possible rollover of $10 million, the Bears will likely have just barely $2.1 million in cap space at the start of next offseason. This with 30 pending free agents to juggle and an entire offense to overhaul. Not ideal. It is for this reason that some fear whoever the GM is, Ryan Pace or his replacement, may have to make some sacrifices in order to create some breathing space.
How many sacrifices is the big question?
Dan Graziano of ESPN did an extensive study around the league. The insider feels the big thing that is compounding the issue for Chicago is their lack of a quarterback. They still need to find one and if they do this coming offseason, they need every resource possible to build around him. That will require more money than they have.
Four names were identified as possible-to-likely options who are either released or traded next offseason. Some will make Bears fans cry, others rejoice.
“Bears DT Akiem Hicks, CB Kyle Fuller and OT Charles Leno would save a combined $27.7 million in cap space for a team that’s up against it and needs to go get a quarterback. TE Jimmy Graham saves another $7 million and should be an obvious cut.”
Chicago Bears may have to sacrifice present for future
Jimmy Graham and Charles Leno? Those are easy decisions. Both represent the futility of the Bears offense. To be fair, Graham has five touchdown catches and Leno has been their most reliable offensive linemen lately. However, neither is remotely close to living up to the respective contracts they were given. Chicago can take that $13.2 million and put it somewhere more useful.
It is the other two guys that will be brutal losses if true. Kyle Fuller is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and playing arguably the best season of his career in terms of coverage. Hicks remains the heart and soul of the Bears defense. When he’s on the field, everybody else picks up their game that extra tick. He is a bully run defender and one of the best power pass rushers in the league.
Yet the cold, hard facts are inescapable.
Hicks turns 32 next year. Fuller will be 29. Both of those guys command high price tags. Don’t get it wrong. Both have more than earned their money. However, the Chicago Bears have put themselves in a position where they can’t afford to keep everybody. Not if they want to truly overhaul the roster to an extent where it will make a difference.
Sacrificing those two would hurt in the short-term. The defense would take a step back over the next year or two. However, if the regime handles the resources gained correctly? They should be able to put the team back into playoff contention pretty quickly. Again, provided they find some sort of answer at quarterback.
Tough decisions are coming.