Filling out the Roster

Chicago has nearly $40 million in cap space to use in free agency. Bear Report looks at the current roster, the players likely to be re-signed and what would be left over for veteran free agents.

News out of the labor talks yesterday included an apparent agreement regarding next season's salary cap. Both sides have agreed to a $120 million cap in 2011. Included in the deal is a mandatory 90-percent salary cap floor each team must meet, meaning teams will need to spend at least $108 million in total player salary.

The Chicago Bears currently have 52 players under contract for a cap space total of about $83 million, according to Spotrac. Here are the players, by position, currently under contract, including those signed to futures/reserves contracts:

Jay Cutler

Kahlil Bell
Matt Forte
Chester Taylor
Harvey Unga

Earl Bennett
Devin Hester
Johnny Knox

Kellen Davis
Brandon Manumaleuna
Greg Olsen

Roberto Garza
Herman Johnson
Lance Louis
Frank Omiyale
J'Marcus Webb
Chris Williams
Edwin Williams

Robbie Gould
Patrick Mannelly

Marcus Harrison
Israel Idonije
Henry Melton
Julius Peppers
Matt Toeaina
Corey Wootton

Lance Briggs
Brian Urlacher

Zackary Bowman
Tim Jennings
D.J. Moore
Joshua Moore
Charles Tillman

Chris Harris
Craig Steltz
Major Wright

QB Matt Gutierrez
WR Andy Fantuz
WR Onrea Jones
OL Johan Asiata
OL Levi Horn
P Richmond McGee
DL Nick Reed
DL Tank Tyler
LB Chris Johnson
LB Patrick Trahan
S K.J. Gerard

Most of these reserve players will either be relegated to the practice squad – for which the team can carry eight players – or will be cut outright. A few – like Horn, Fantuz and McGee – have a good shot to make the roster, at minimum contracts.

The team will also have to sign the following five draft picks for a total of around $5 million:

QB Nathan Enderle
OT Gabe Carimi
DT Steve Paea
LB J.T. Thomas
S Chris Conte

Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie is a restricted free agent and will most likely return to the team under his $1.2 million tender. The following five players are those the Bears will most likely attempt to re-sign, including the projected 2011 cap hit for each contract based on market value:

C Olin Kreutz $2.75 million
DT Anthony Adams $2.5 million
LB Nick Roach $1.4 million
LB Brian Iwuh $750,000
WR Rashied Davis $750,000

The Bears will most likely hang on to about 40 of the team's contracted players, as well as roughly four of those with reserve contracts. It's possible one undrafted free agent will make the 53-man roster as well. Add the five players the team is projected to re-sign and we get a total of 50 filled roster spots. A few players currently under contract won't make the final roster – Chester Taylor and Marcus Harrison are the most likely to be cut – which drops the total down to 48. That projected cap hit would be somewhere in the range of $100-$105 million.

That leaves five open roster positions the Bears can fill with veteran free agents for roughly $15-20 million. With that much money, the team could aggressively pursue one of the top-tier offensive guards, which would cost around $6-$7 million, and still have enough left over to fill out the roster with established players.

GM Jerry Angelo and company have a great opportunity to boost the roster substantially. In the midst of what's sure to be a frenzied free agency period, the Bears front office, if prepared, could fill nearly every roster hole and give this team the pieces it needs to take the next step.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com. To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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