Ryan Pace may already have plans in motion to create cap space for a splashy addition to the Bears roster in 2021. According to Jeremy Fowler, Pace is looking to restructure some Bears contracts to free up extra space for the upcoming season.
Whitehair signed a five-year, $51.25 million contract in September 2019, while the Bears and Jackson agreed to a four-year, $58.4 million deal in January 2020. That contract made Jackson the highest paid safety in the league at the time. That distinction now belongs to the Cardinals’ Budda Baker.
As things stand now, Jackson carries the fifth-highest cap hit on the team for 2021, at $11.45 million, according to Spotrac. Whitehair ranks eighth on the team with a $9.6 million hit.
Pace is no stranger to restructuring contracts to create space. He’s already done it before with Whitehair in March of 2020, just a few months after inking Whitehair to his initial extension. In addition, Pace has restructured the deals for Khalil Mack, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Goldman and Nick Foles to name a few.
Here’s how it works: The Bears convert a portion of a player’s base salary into a signing bonus. For salary cap purposes, that signing bonus is spread evenly over the course of the contract. Players benefit too, because they receive that money all at once, despite the fact that the NFL accounts it over several years.
For example, let’s say a player under contract for five seasons carries a base salary of $15 million for the upcoming season (for our purposes let's pretend he has no bonuses attached). A team could take $10 million of that base salary, and convert it to a signing bonus. The player receives the full $10 million up front, but the team gets to spread that money over the five years, lowering his cap hit to $7 million for the upcoming season— $5 million for the new base salary, plus $2 million for that year’s portion of the signing bonus.
While this can create an even tighter cap crunch down the road, in the short term it affords GMs more flexibility to add players. In a “win-now” mode, that added flexibility can be the difference in adding an extra impact player, or not.
According to Over The Cap, the Bears are currently $4 million over the projected $180,500,000 cap.