Eddie Jackson

How Eddie Jackson's contract impacts Bears' 2020 salary cap

How Eddie Jackson's contract impacts Bears' 2020 salary cap

The terms of Bears safety Eddie Jackson's four-year, $58.4 million contract extension have finally leaked, and it's a surprisingly cap-friendly deal for the Bears in 2020.

Chicago began the 2020 offseason with a challenging salary-cap situation. The Bears ranked in the bottom six teams for available cap space, which made Jackson's mega-deal somewhat surprising. But general manager Ryan Pace structured its terms in a way that keeps Chicago in play to land a few free agents this March.

Jackson's new deal will account for just $3.71 million against the cap this season, and when factoring Kyle Long's retirement and the more than $8 million in savings it provided, the Bears have $14.5 million in remaining cap space.

The cap-savings in Jackson's contract won't last long, however. Here's how his contract breaks down over the next five seasons (in millions):

  • 2020: $3.71
  • 2021: $11.45
  • 2022: $13.5
  • 2023: $15.5
  • 2024: $16.55

Remember: Pace can free up even more spending power by releasing cornerback Prince Amukamara and rescinding Leonard Floyd's fifth-year option. Those two moves alone would create an additional $21 million in cap room.

With Jackson's deal factored in, the Bears currently rank 28th in cap room, ahead of only the Falcons, Steelers, Jaguars and Vikings.

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Ryan Pace calls Eddie Jackson the anchor of Bears' secondary

Ryan Pace calls Eddie Jackson the anchor of Bears' secondary

Bears general manager Ryan Pace checked a major box on Saturday when he signed safety Eddie Jackson to a four-year, $58.4 million extension in a move that locks up one of Chicago's top all-around playmakers for the foreseeable future.

“We’re very excited to get this deal done with Eddie to keep him in a Bears uniform long-term,” said Pace. “It’s rare to find a player in this league with talent like Eddie’s. He’s a rangy ball hawk with exceptional IQ, a great teammate and a natural leader. He is the anchor to the back end of our defense and we are fortunate to have him.”

Jackson emerged as one of the NFL's best safeties in 2018 when he finished the year with 51 tackles and six interceptions. His three defensive touchdowns turned him into a highlight waiting to happen.

He wasn't as dominant in 2019, but his regression was part of an overall step backward for the defense. Still, he finished the season with 60 tackles and two interceptions and became a more outspoken leader for the Bears when things weren't going well for the team.

“It’s a blessing. Mr. [Ryan] Pace took a chance on me, bringing me in here, fourth round, after the gruesome injury I had in college," said Jackson in a conference call on Saturday. "Just for him to have that belief in me is a huge blessing.”

Jackson's $14.6 million average annual salary makes him the highest-paid safety in the league, per Spotrac. His price tag would've only gone up had Pace waited to re-sign him until the end of 2020, when Jackson's rookie deal was due to expire.

“There’s still a lot of unfinished business out there," Jackson said. "The most important part is bringing that Super Bowl trophy back to Chicago. I’m not going to stop until I can’t go no more. That’s one thing they’ll get from me. I want to retire a Chicago Bear and I want to do that after I help bring the Super Bowl to the city.”

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Eddie Jackson's extension is latest example of why it's hard to judge Ryan Pace's tenure

Eddie Jackson's extension is latest example of why it's hard to judge Ryan Pace's tenure

Has this not been the most Ryan Pace of Ryan Pace’s weeks, maybe ever? On Sunday, the team he assembled needed 58 minutes to beat the Vikings’ backups and finish a wildly-underwhelming season at 8-8. Two days later, his end-of-year press conference with Matt Nagy was panned for being, at best, tone deaf.

Then on Thursday, details of the deftly-restructured Kyle Fuller contract emerged – another commendable example of Pace showcasing his ability to maneuver through tricky cap situations. And finally, in what may end up being the smartest move of the Bears’ offseason, the team has reportedly agreed to a 4-year, $58 million extension with Eddie Jackson. 

“I’m not a patient person,” George McCaskey said on Tuesday. “That’s where it’s really helpful to have Ryan. He talks about not getting too high or too low, trying to keep an even keel.”

The immediate flurry of moves isn’t surprising – Pace was adamant that the moment his press conference ended, “The next four to five months are about hard decisions – the decisions that require a real, honest assessment of our roster and our entire football operations.” While a coaching shakeup was apparently the most pressing of those decisions – someone’s gotta get fired – an extension for Jackson makes sense as a next step. Maybe the biggest surprise (or maybe not?) is the Bears apparently couldn’t wait until Labor Day weekend to announce it. 

The Bears aren’t any closer to figuring out what their starting safety duo is going to look like next season, but keeping Jackson around through at least 2025 is an objectively good mark for Pace’s tenure in Chicago. The 26-year old has been elected to the Pro Bowl twice in three seasons and already has been named a first-team All-Pro. Pro Football Focus ranked him as their top safety in 2018, though he was ranked considerably lower (86) this year. 

More importantly, the signing is the latest example of why it’s so tough to confidently judge the success of Pace’s six years in charge. Jackson’s extension is another feather in the cap of Pace and his staff, who deserve credit for building a talented Bears core. He now joins a group of players who are contracted through the 2022 season: Khalil Mack, David Montgomery, Kyle Fuller, Riley Ridley, Bobby Massie, Charles Leno and Roquan Smith (team options), Cody Whitehair, Eddie Goldman and Duke Shelley are the others. Not every NFL team can say they have that much young talent under contract for that long. 

Obviously the other side of the coin is none of those players are quarterbacks, and Pace’s time in Chicago is directly tied to fixing that. He’s been on record in the past stating he’d like to draft one every year, but backpedalled from that on Tuesday, saying, “You have philosophies, but you’re also taking best player available and you don’t want to deviate from that.” He also noted that rebuilding a roster from scratch required a different approach. 

Trubisky still seems like The Guy in Halas Hall, and that decision will outweigh every single prudent extension handed to other positions. Maybe Pace is bluffing, though it was interesting to compare his answers to the ones in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. The fact that he’s even in this position casts such a large shadow over an otherwise-good resume. It’s also starting to draw the ire of fanbase growing impatient – and at a seemingly faster rate than the owner. 

“... I react like a fan,” McCaskey added. “That’s no way to run a football team.” 

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