No guarantees in McDonald’s contract

Ray McDonald’s one-year deal, worth a maximum $1.5 million, contains no guaranteed money. The Bears also made a sizeable investment in Alan Ball, offset by Mason Foster’s veteran minimum contract.

The Chicago Bears last week signed three players: CB Alan Ball, DE Ray McDonald and LB Mason Foster.

The McDonald signing garnered most of the headlines due to his recent history off the field. He carries a lot of risk and may still face a suspension.

The Bears mitigated that risk by structuring his contract without any guaranteed money. McDonald’s one-year deal is worth potentially $1.5 million – $1.05 million in base salary, $450,000 in incentives – but if the team chooses to part ways with him due to pending discipline or further legal troubles, the Bears won’t owe him a dime.

That’s a smart play by general manager Ryan Pace. The ball is entirely in the court of McDonald, who will have to earn every penny he makes this season.

Ball’s one-year contract is worth $3 million total: $1.95 million base salary, $1 million signing bonus, $50,000 roster bonus.

That is a fairly substantial investment in a 30-year-old cornerback, so obviously Bears brass expect him to play this season. Don’t be surprised if Ball lines up Week 1 at the boundary corner position, with Tim Jennings in the slot.

Ball nearly signed with the Carolina Panthers and backed out at the last minute after the Bears joined the bidding. Chicago’s offer was $1M more than Carolina’s.

Foster’s one-year deal is for the veteran minimum $745,000 in base salary, with an $80,000 signing bonus. The $825,000 he’ll earn is far less than the $5-million-per-year deal he expected entering free agency.

The Bears were patient with Foster and allowed him to pursue better options. Obviously, the market for mid-level NFL linebackers wasn’t as high as Foster thought, allowing Pace to get a 26-year-old middle linebacker for a bargain-basement price.

Overall, the three new Bears carry a maximum investment of $5.325 million in 2015. According to the NFLPA, the team now has $11,433,538 in cap space. With roughly $5 million due to the incoming draft class, Chicago still has around $6 million of usable cap space.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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