The thought around the NFL was the league would see a decent injection of money into 2020’s salary cap after a new CBA was ratified. The NFLPA approved the new CBA, it announced Sunday, but the news doesn’t appear positive for the Bears:
NFL salary cap will be set at $198.2M in 2020, a source confirms. A little lower than some teams anticipated.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 15, 2020
First and foremost: How much money the Bears actually have in salary cap space is extremely fluid here. Estimates are all over the place — Spotrac has the Bears using $191,085,060 in cap space, though doesn’t have cap hits available for Roy Robertson-Harris (who’s expected to make around $3.3 million) and Danny Trevathan (who has $14 million guaranteed, but isn’t not known what his cap hit is in 2020). So with those the Bears could be awfully close to being up against a $198 million salary cap.
OverTheCap has the Bears holding about $11 million in cap space while accounting for Robertson-Harris’ contract but not Trevathan’s. Also: OverTheCap still has Kyle Long on the Bears’ books, with an additional $8.1 million in savings due when his contract is removed. The NFLPA’s public salary cap report has the Bears holding $14.6 million in cap space, though there’s not a player-by-player breakdown available to see who's accounted for and who's not.
None of these numbers include increases in player minimum salaries, though. The addition of a 17th game won’t affect cap numbers until the league actually adds it, maybe in 2022.
The takeaway here should be that the Bears, and probably only the Bears, know exactly how much cap space they have. But if we’re ballparking it, the Bears likely don’t have as much wiggle room as we thought they would with a new CBA being approved.
But there is good news!
There are ways for the Bears to create cap room, of course, especially seeing as most around the league expect significant salary cap jumps in 2021 and 2022. Signing Allen Robinson to a contract extension would be a start, locking him up for the next few years while lowering his 2020 cap hit from its current $15 million figure.
The Bears could also aggressively re-structure contracts around their roster, pushing costs into the future when the cap is expected to rise. Per Spotrac, the Bears could create a shade under $22.5 million in cap space by re-structuring the base salaries due to Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Goldman and Cody Whitehair, which would make sense if there’s going to be a windfall of cap space hitting in a year or two or three.
And, too, the Bears could rescind Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option — which is guaranteed for injury only — and save $13.222 million in 2020 cap space.
So the Bears have options here, and while their cap number may not look high right now, it could be by the time free agency begins (whenever that will be).