Chopping Block

The Bears have already undergone a coaching change, but as time passes it looks like three opening day starters could be released by the end of the month.

Despite being $11 million under the projected salary cap the Bears are positioning themselves to have enough space to make a major move in free agency.

Warrick Holdman ($2.4 million) and Phillip Daniels ($1 million) are due roster bonuses on March 3rd, which coincides with the start of free agency. At this point there is major doubt whether or not the team will allocate the bonuses.

Multiple sources have reported Daniels and Holdman are being shopped for draft picks. If a trade can't be worked out before the start of free agency then both could end up as salary cap casualties.

Daniels' base salary is slated at $3 million this year, but has a cap value of $5.6 million. It's hard to justify that kind of coin going to a player that will turn 31 next month and is coming off a two-sack season. While Daniels switched to left end, a position considered more run oriented, for the good of the team, 2003 first-round pick Michael Haynes is ready to compete with him in training camp.

A knee injury put Holdman on the shelf for 12 games in 2002. Despite starting the '03 campaign in strong form, leading the team in tackles twice in four games, he didn't look like the same player after suffering an ankle sprain in Week 5. He missed three games and finished the season with 79 tackles, only one of which went for a loss. Thanks to the checking the box fiasco Holdman will count about $3 million on the salary cap this year.

It would be a major risk to rely on Joe Odom, who started three games at weak-side linebacker as a rookie, to replace Holdman. However in order to sure up other areas it might be worth the risk in Jerry Angelo's eyes.

The cash freed up by trading or releasing Daniels and Holdman would be about $7 million. Chicago would then have enough money to make a run at a quality left tackle such as Green Bay's Chad Clifton and possibly bringing back Chris Villarrial. The chances of re-signing Villarrial, who is the longest tenured Bear, were viewed as slim at season's end but additional cap room could improve the odds.

It's a done deal that Kordell Stewart will not be back with the club next year. Releasing the veteran will free up an additional $1.45 million in cap space.

Bryan Robinson and Rex Tucker have both agreed to restructure their current deals. Robinson will take a $1 million pay cut reducing his base salary to $1.45 million, while Tucker's reduction $600,000 will come over the next two seasons.

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