Brad Biggs Breaks Down the Bears Salary Cap Situation

| February 21st, 2012

Biggs is the best Bears writer of this generation and he does the leg work on the Bears cap many of you have been asking for. There is little commentary warranted or needed except to say the Bears are in a wonderful financial situation heading into the 2012 offseason. They can have exactly what they want. But will they seize it?

Here is the text of Biggs’ piece. To read his position-by-position breakdown, CLICK HERE.

The NFL shopping season begins three weeks from Tuesday when free agency opens on March 13.

The Chicago Bears will have the room to be as aggressive as they want in the marketplace but it remains to be seen how new general manager Phil Emery wants to handle business in what will be the first defining moves of his tenure.

Emery said at his introductory press conference that his vision is to build through the draft, not surprising considering his background as a college scouting director and area scout. That was long the approach of his predecessor Jerry Angelo before a string of bad drafts caught up to the organization and he was forced to fill many holes via free agency and other avenues.

The Bears, coming off an 8-8 season, are in a situation where they need to win now to enhance the future of coach Lovie Smith, who is signed through 2013. Team president Ted Phillips spoke about closing the talent gap between the Bears and division foes Green Bay and Detroit and free agency is the first vehicle that can be used to achieve that goal.

The Bears project to have more than $20 million in salary cap room. But by rolling over unused salary cap from 2011, the club can push that figure north of $25 million, far and away the most of any team in the division. One league source speculated it could be as much as $28 million. The exact figure is constantly in flux and remember room needs to be carved out for draft picks. The Bears are far from the reported $67 million in cap space the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have but as one general manager said last season it’s no longer the cap that defines the NFL but cash. It comes down to what teams want to budget for their players.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the Bears have right now in the way of salary cap figures for individual players for the coming season.

Here are the team’s top five cap figures for 2012, according to documents acquired by the Tribune:

1. DE Julius Peppers $12,183,333

2. LB Brian Urlacher $9,700,000

3. QB Jay Cutler $9,600,000

4. CB Charles Tillman $7,966,670

5. LB Lance Briggs $5,996,666

There are some notes to consider when looking at the Bears’ cap:

*For starters, Tillman’s number is so large because it includes $3 million is in the form of a special teams incentive he will not receive. It’s considered a likely to be earned incentive which counts toward the 2012 cap, but would provide a cap credit for 2013. It fluffs the real value of the deal for an agent and builds in cap credits for the club. If the Bears really wanted to free even more space, they could remove the credit with a renegotiated deal.

*It’s not surprising that four of the top five players are on defense. That is where the Bears have typically invested most. The team has $15,696,666 committed to Pro Bowl linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. That projects to be almost 13.1 percent of the non-adjusted cap for 2012, which is expected to come in around $120 million.

*The Bears are not carrying a lot of dead cap space. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, running back Chester Taylor and wide receiver Sam Hurd combine to count $3.1 million vs. the 2012 cap, really a small amount in the big picture.

*The bottom line is Emery is inherited an advantageous position from a cap standpoint. It’s the cap equivalent of a clean slate and he can do with it as he wants.

Nice work, Brad.