The Bears’ efforts to upgrade their roster with a relatively meager amount of cap space won’t be hamstrung by right tackle Bobby Massie’s contract extension, as it turns out.
The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported the details of Massie’s contract on Monday, which you can find here. For 2019, though, the important detail is this: Massie’s cap hit will only be $3.8 million, which is low for a solid veteran.
It’ll rise in 2020, when the Bears will have some players hitting free agency and/or will have the option to save cap space by releasing others. 2020 is also the last year the Bears will have with Mitch Trubisky at a bargain (his cap hits the next two years are around $7.9 million and $9.2 million).
Spotrac estimated the Bears will have about $9.3 million in cap space for 2019 before Massie’s contract. That’ll drop to about $5.5 million after Massie’s deal, but will rise to around $11.5 million after the expected release of tight end Dion Sims that’ll save $6 million against the cap. Something to keep in mind with these cap numbers, though: They’re exceedingly fluid and can be manipulated by releasing players or re-structuring contracts.
Still, if $11.5 million is the ballpark figure the Bears will work with when free agency opens in mid-March, it would seem likely the team won’t be able to retain both cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos. General manager Ryan Pace won’t be able to go on the spending spree he did last year, but that’s also intentional — he did his 2019 spending in 2018, adding Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Cody Parkey, Chase Daniel and Khalil Mack with an eye on the future (Parkey is the only one of those guys who didn’t work out).
The Bears still may want to re-sign Callahan and/or Amos, but both are first-time free agents (unlike Massie) who may be wise to test the open market. Plus, if the Bears are looking at getting better in 2019, keeping the status quo doesn’t necessarily accomplish that.
So with the Super Bowl over and the NFL’s attention shifting to the combine and free agency, the critical question facing Pace is this: How does he improve an NFC North-winning roster without the benefit of loads of cap space or first- and second-round draft picks?
Bringing back Massie while keeping his 2019 cap hit low does serve to accomplish those goals: Massie’s steady, reliable presence at right tackle should benefit Trubisky’s growth in Year 2 running Matt Nagy’s offense. But this contract is merely the first step for Pace, who still has plenty of moves to make over the next three months.