It was reported yesterday by the Chicago Tribune that the Chicago Bears have slashed J'Marcus Webb's base salary from $1.323 million down to $630,000, which is the minimum for a four-year veteran. Yet Webb can earn back all of that money through playing-time incentives.
Webb has had a turbulent career in Chicago. The former seventh-round pick was thrust into the starting right tackle position his rookie year and it's been a roller-coaster ride ever since. At times, Webb was turnstile at tackle, yet under former offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Mike Tice, Webb could do no wrong. No matter how poorly he played, Tice always inserted him in the starting lineup the following week.
The new coaching staff, particularly offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, have not been as patient. After working as the starting right tackle throughout offseason programs, it took Kromer just one preseason game to demote Webb to the second team. In his place, the staff inserted Jordan Mills, who played well in the second preseason contest.
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If they see Mills as the starting right tackle of the future, which appears to be the case, then it's no surprise they asked Webb to cut his salary down to one more reminiscent of a backup. But does this move signal the end for Webb in Chicago or is it a way to motivate him into raising his level of play?
The Bears aren't in much of a position to be picky about their offensive tackles. While Mills has looked good in the preseason, he's still unproven. As with any rookie, we could see considerable regression against opponents tougher than the San Diego Chargers. And if that happens, then you're back to square one.
The team is high on Jonathan Scott as a potential swing tackle but he is still recovering from a sore knee that has held him out of practice since the first weekend of training camp. It's the same knee problem that forced the Lions to cut him prior to the start of last season. The recurring nature of the injury is worrisome and raises questions about Scott's long-term durability.
Beyond Scott, the only viable tackle on the roster is Eben Britton, yet he has performed about as well as Webb this preseason. So by process of elimination, Webb's job is safe, for now.
Yet the biggest factor to consider is that Webb had to agree to a pay cut. If he had said no, in all likelihood he would have been cut – similar to the release of Khalil Bell last year. Knowing that, it's obvious Marc Trestman and his offensive staff were prepared to move on without Webb on the roster. That's not a good sign.
Also, for Webb and Eben Britton, neither is guaranteed any money this year. On the other hand, Scott is guaranteed $165,000. So in terms of dead money, it would make sense to hang on to Scott, if he's healthy.
Finally, even with the pay cut, Webb still has a higher cap figure ($645,153) than Scott ($620,000) and Britton ($555,000).
Those are three strikes against Webb in his pursuit to make the 53-man roster this year. He still has an opportunity to keep his job but it's going to be an uphill climb all the way.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.