Even after Alshon Jeffery’s signing chopped $14.6 million from the Bears’ available salary cap space, they still had the seventh-highest amount available entering Wednesday’s start of free agency (approximately $46 million).
Going by the average salaries dished out in the multi-year deals they gave Danny Trevathan, Bobby Massie and Tracy Porter, plus the one-year agreements with Jacquizz Rodgers and Nick Becton, figure there’s still somewhere in the range of $26 million remaining. They might still like to add a tight end, a defensive end and a defensive back, and one of their reported targets up front, New England’s Akiem Hicks, remained unsigned as of late Monday night. Also unsigned were two of their own free agents of note who could be candidates to return: tight end Zach Miller and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. The latter doesn’t figure to be back if they finalize something with Hicks. Colts tight end Coby Fleener signed with the Saints (five years, $36 million), while the Chargers’ Ladarius Green landed in Pittsburgh (four years, $20 million). So if Martellus Bennett’s future here is short, and Miller is seeking comparable money to what was set Wednesday, Ryan Pace will have to decide whether five-to-seven million dollars annually for Miller is worth it for a guy who was pretty fragile until last season.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
No one in the NFC North went on any wilder a spending spree than the Bears, but the Vikings had a comparable opening day. They brought in nasty veteran guard Alex Boone, while also re-upping with their own guard, Mike Harris, who started 16 games on the right side. They also signed Michael Griffin away from Tennessee, where he had 101 tackles in 2015, and figures to team with Harrison Smith at safety while sending Andrew Sendejo to a backup role again.
The Lions had a slightly quieter day, regaining some size at wideout following Calvin Johnson’s retirement in 6'2" Marvin Jones, who had 65 catches and four touchdowns for the Bengals opposite A.J. Green. They also turned back to 32-year-old Haloti Ngata to anchor the middle of their defensive line. They did, though, lose a talented special teamer to Miami in Isa Abdul-Quddus. Veteran defenders James Ihedigbo, Stephen Tulloch and Tahir Whitehead remained on the market heading into free agency’s first night.
And then there’s the Packers. All you need to know is GM Ted Thompson spent the day at Wisconsin’s Pro Day. They’ve built their success through the draft and it looks like they’ll continue to do so, despite Julius Peppers’ unsuccessful pitch to former Bears teammate Matt Forte. Some of their key defenders – Casey Hayward, Mike Neal, and B.J. Raji – were still looking for takers heading into Day Two.