Early reports claimed the Bears would be somewhere in the range of $19-20 million under the salary cap once free agency opens Friday, but those figures are relatively unreliable until the NFL computes a series of credits.
According to Adam Caplan, the senior NFL reporter for Scout.com, the Monsters of the Midway will be in even better shape than originally projected.
Caplan tells Bear Report that Chicago should receive "about $9.7 million back in cap space once the league recalculates their cap credits by the start of free agency on Friday, pushing their available space to around $29-$30 million."
On the heels of back-to-back postseason-campaigns in the Windy City, the Bears have glaring holes to fill on both sides of the ball – as well as depth concerns at most every position. Offensively, Kyle Orton needs a legitimate No. 1 receiver, Matt Forte could use a dependable reserve at running back, and the line requires an injection of youth at both guard and tackle. As for the defense, a pass-rushing end would fit in nicely, strong-side linebacker is totally up in the air, and safety has to be solved after years of injury problems.
The unexpected retirement of veteran tackle John Tait alone gives Chicago well over $4 million in salary cap relief, while the rest is made up of likely-to-be-earned contract incentives from various players that were not reached a season ago.
There are bound to be several teams with oodles of money to spend on the open market, even though the free-agent landscape is somewhat barren these days – a record 14 players were slapped with the franchise tag this year. The Bears could have scored a huge upgrade offensively signing a wideout like Antonio Bryant or a tackle like Max Starks, and the D would have looked much better gaining the services of an end like Julius Peppers or a safety like Oshiomogho Atogwe. Many other quality pros were signed to long-terms deals by their current clubs before being given a chance to field offers.
The Bears now have enough cash to make a real impact on the free agency front, but whether or not general manager Jerry Angelo actually loosens up his purse strings remains to be seen.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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