Bears

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

If the NFL’s proposed CBA is ratified by the NFLPA — and, right now, it seems like it will be — every current, active contract will look like a bargain in a few years. And that’s the starting point for how the Bears could maybe, just maybe, get a little weird in free agency this year. 

There's always money in the banana stand, after all. 

The Bears are projected to have about $26 million in cap space, per Spotrac, a number that currently would not allow them to sign a big-name free agent or trade for a guy with a high price tag. Cap space can always be created, though — it just depends on how willing a team is to kick the proverbial can down the road. 

And that bill always comes due. But what if the Bears have loads more cap space when the bill comes due thanks to lucrative new TV deals signed a few years after the CBA is ratified?

A new CBA would likely immediately increase 2020's salary cap (the Athletic estimated a $5 million increase per team). But the best way for the Bears to create more cap space in 2020 is by borrowing from the Bank of Khalil. 

The Bears could create about $10 million in cap space by converting some of Mack’s base salary into a signing bonus, per Spotrac, and could also do the same with the contracts of Eddie Goldman, Kyle Fuller, Cody Whitehair and Akiem Hicks, if they so chose. 

The Bears would save a total of about $22.5 million in 2020 cap space by restructuring all five of those contracts. Add in a contract extension for Allen Robinson that could save a few million in 2020 and the Bears wind up with over $50 million in cap space this year. 

That’s a lot of cans to kick down the road, and it’s not without risk (injuries, age-based regression, etc.). It's also crazily aggressive, but who knows what contracts will look like in 2022 or 2023. Paying Mack $26 million then might look like a bargain, even as he plays into his 30s.  

So the money is there if the Bears really want it, and are willing to place a big bet on their 2020 roster. This space of the interweb has mostly been reserved for preaching the Bears’ need for salary cap prudence this offseason; it’s part of the reason why the expectation still is for Ryan Pace to target a backup who can “compete” with Mitch Trubisky, not a guy to start over him. 

But maybe the Bears can shop in a different aisle for that second quarterback. Instead of targeting a Case Keenum-type on a cheap, one-year contract, perhaps the Bears can pry Andy Dalton away from the Cincinnati Bengals and not worry about his $17.7 million cap hit. 

Maybe it means offering a contract to the guard or tight end Pace and Matt Nagy want, not the one they can afford. Needs at inside linebacker, cornerback and/or safety could be more readily addressed before the draft, freeing Pace up to actually stick to his “best player available” mantra. 

There is hope here if you want the Bears to be more aggressive in free agency than their current amount of cap space suggests they will be. That doesn’t mean the Bears are going to follow this path, though. The new CBA needs to be ratified first, of course, and maybe that immediately drives up prices in the free agent market, leaving the Bears in the same position they’re in now. 

But the Bears do have a way to inflate their salary cap balloon, and if they do, they might not need to totally worry about it popping a few years from now. It all depends on if the new CBA is ratified or not before the new league year begins in mid-March. 

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Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks wants out of L.A. It's no secret the Rams are trying to trade him, and he expressed his desire to be traded on Twitter on Friday.

The Bears have a need in their offense for a speed wide receiver, and Cooks has been one of the most explosive weapons at the position throughout his career.

Prior to last season's offensive meltdown in Los Angeles, Cooks recorded four-straight 1,000-yard seasons and averaged more than 15 yards per catch in three of those years. He's still only 26 years old and has plenty of juice left in his legs to offer his next team a similar level of production; he would be a dynamic complement to Allen Robinson and would round out Chicago's wide receiver corps.

And here's the thing: we know Ryan Pace loves his former Saints. He just rewarded Jimmy Graham with a two-year, $16 million contract despite a market that likely wouldn't have valued his services anywhere near that amount.

But Graham was one of Pace's guys from his days in New Orleans, and so is Cooks.

The Saints traded a first- and third-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft to move up for Cooks (they moved from No. 27 to No. 20 to select him). Pace was New Orleans' Director of Player Personnel at the time; his voice was a powerful one in the decision to acquire Cooks.

The biggest impediment to making a move for Cooks is his contract. He signed a five-year, $81 million deal with the Rams in 2018 and has a $16.8 million cap hit in 2020. With Robinson looking to break the bank on a contract extension in the coming weeks, it's highly unlikely the Bears will commit that much money to the wide receiver position. Any trade will have to include some kind of restructured contract or an agreement that the Rams carry a significant portion of Cooks' cap hit.

There's also the issue of compensation that the Bears could send to Los Angeles for a player as dynamic as Cooks. A trade would require at least one of Chicago's second-round picks. Maybe that's all it will take, but the Rams would be justified asking for more.

The dollars have to make sense and the compensation has to be appealing enough to get a deal done. But there's no doubt Pace is at least researching his options.

Cooks, unlike Graham, would be one of Pace's guys who Bears fans would welcome with open arms.

Bears land two potential starters in latest NFL.com mock draft

Bears land two potential starters in latest NFL.com mock draft

The 2020 NFL draft is less than four weeks away and now that the first wave of free agency is over, team needs have begun to crystallize.

For the Chicago Bears, that means youth at tight end and a starting-quality safety will be high on their draft wish list. According to Chad Reuter's latest NFL.com 2020 mock draft, the Bears check both boxes with potential starters in the second round.

At pick No. 43, Chicago adds LSU safety Grant Delpit, who prior to the 2019 college football season was considered by most draft analysts to be the most gifted defensive player not named Chase Young.

Delpit's final season with the Tigers wasn't the best for his draft stock. He lacked the splash plays that made him a household name last season, but he still displayed the kind of aggressive and fearless style that would make him a strong complement next to Eddie Jackson, who the Bears want to get back to playing centerfield. Delpit will slide to the second round because he's an inconsistent finisher, but he'd offer great value for a Bears defense that needs an aggressive run defender on its third level.

At No. 50, the Bears snag a potential starter at tight end in Purdue's Brycen Hopkins

Hopkins is a wide receiver in a tight end's body; he's everything Chicago's offense has been missing. Regardless of who wins the team's quarterback competition this summer, a player like Hopkins has the kind of playmaking ability to instantly become one of the early reads in the offense's passing game. 

With veterans Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton already on the roster, a player like Hopkins could be eased into the lineup with the expectation that he'd eventually become the primary receiving option at the position by the end of his rookie season.

Not a bad second-round haul. It's critically important that Ryan Pace hits on his second-rounders, too. The Bears' next pick doesn't occur until the fifth round, which is usually when special teams players and practice squad candidates are added.