On the heels of clearing up roughly $12 million in cap space with the release of DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and OT Kevin Shaffer, sources have confirmed that Jerry Angelo recently shifted around even more money. On Feb. 23, Chicago's front office quietly re-worked Julius Peppers' contract, saving an additional $8 million in cap space for 2011. That's around $20 million more to work with than the Bears had two weeks ago.
Peppers' salary cap number for 2011 will be reduced from $12 million to $4.3 million. GM Jerry Angelo accomplished this by changing Peppers' $10.5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus. That money can now be prorated over the life of the contract, which runs through 2015.
Peppers is a classy player who has mad it clear his goal of winning a championship. No matter how the contract is structured, he'll still get his full $42 in guaranteed money, so it's no surprise he put team first and agreed to defer some of those greenbacks.
Angelo now has the ability to be very aggressive in free agency. The team has needs along the entire offensive line, at wide receiver, cornerback, defensive tackle and linebacker. It could also use another running back. Some of those holes should be filled in the upcoming draft but rookies don't often produce right away. These recent moves signify Angelo's desire to cut the fat and find players who can help the team win now. Those players are more often found in free agency.
Chicago's front office now has the opportunity to really improve the team in 2011. They have a full allotment of draft choices and money to burn. What they should not do is spread the money out on a bunch of average players. The team doesn't need anymore Frank Omiyale/Josh Bullocks-type acquisitions. It needs impact players who can start immediately.
The best strategy would be to grab at least two big name free agents like WR Sidney Rice, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, G Davin Joseph and OT Doug Free. Those types of signings breathe new life into teams and fire up the fan base. They are the kind of impact players that could be the missing pieces to the puzzle.If the Bears can grab a few big names, they can then fill in the rest of the gaps with rookies and veterans. If one or two of those rookies can come in and produce immediately, then all of the sudden Chicago becomes very dangerous.
The scenarios are countless but the approach should be unwavering. This team is not in a building phase. It is on the cusp of being one of the best in the NFC, it just needs a tune up. Angelo needs to use that money to make sure everything is running at peak performance heading into next season.
Aromashodu Not Tendered
WR Devin Aromashodu started the first game of last season, then he disappeared. There were reports coordinator Mike Martz was unhappy with the receiver's drops in Week 1 and that Aromashodu was unwilling to play the slot. For whatever reason, he didn't fit into the Bears' offensive picture going forward, which is why the potential restricted free agent was not tendered a contract offer by the team.
Going into last season the 6-2, 201-pound wideout was thought of by many as the future No. 1 receiver. He showed great chemistry with QB Jay Cutler and made some really big plays at the end of 2009. Just a year later, he's now out of a job. He will be free to look elsewhere for employment.
This really was the best thing for both the team and the player. Aromashodu should garner some interest around the league. A fresh start is what he needs. The Bears now have another roster spot to fill. If they go big and grab a starter in free agency, they can forego WR in the draft until the later rounds. If they can't pick up a big-name receiver on the open market, expect Chicago to make wideout a position of priority come April's draft.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.