Are the Bears up to something big?
Source: the Bears have created $11M of cap space by converting $13M of Khalil Mack's base salary & roster bonus into a signing bonus. Chicago positioning itself to make moves if desired...— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 12, 2019
Clearing that much cap space in 2019 — and, essentially, deferring it to 2020-2023 — is a strong signal that Ryan Pace is working on something. Or somethings.
Without the full 2019 details of the contracts of running back Mike Davis (reportedly two years, $7 million max) and slot corner Buster Skrine (reportedly three years, $16.5 million), it’s hard to know exactly how much cap space the Bears have after the Mack re-structuring. It’s likely north of $20 million, which would allow Ryan Pace to sign one of the biggest free agents still available, like safety Earl Thomas or running back Le’Veon Bell.
Or, alternatively: It would allow Pace to sign a safety to replace Adrian Amos, who the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported Monday night would likely land elsewhere in free agency. In addition to that safety, the cap space could allow the Bears to add depth at a few critical positions: Wide receiver, offensive line and edge rusher, specifically.
The Bears will lose versatile special teamer Josh Bellamy to the New York Jets, per multiple reports, and are unlikely to retain 2015 first-round pick Kevin White. That leaves their wide receiver depth chart needing at least one player, possibly more. The Bears have been linked to New England running back/wideout Cordarrelle Patterson, who could add an explosive element to the offense.
Both the Bears’ primary interior offensive line reserves – Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush – are unrestricted free agents, leaving them with a need for a backup there, especially given Kyle Long’s injury history.
And behind Mack and Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker are a pair of young, unproven players in Isaiah Irving and Kylie Fitts. Signing a veteran to back up Mack and Floyd would be a prudent move.
On the surface, the sensible thing to do may be to use the money freed up by Mack’s restructuring to build out a depth chart that wasn’t particularly tested by injuries in 2018. The Bears may not be able to count on the same luck in 2019, so adding reserves at a few critical positions is important.
Or maybe the Bears really are going to throw caution to the wind and make a legitimate run at Bell. We’ll likely find out soon.