nfl

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

The Bears can be aggressive in NFL free agency if they bet on new CBA

If the NFL’s proposed CBA is ratified by the NFLPA — and, right now, it seems like it will be — every current, active contract will look like a bargain in a few years. And that’s the starting point for how the Bears could maybe, just maybe, get a little weird in free agency this year. 

There's always money in the banana stand, after all. 

The Bears are projected to have about $26 million in cap space, per Spotrac, a number that currently would not allow them to sign a big-name free agent or trade for a guy with a high price tag. Cap space can always be created, though — it just depends on how willing a team is to kick the proverbial can down the road. 

And that bill always comes due. But what if the Bears have loads more cap space when the bill comes due thanks to lucrative new TV deals signed a few years after the CBA is ratified?

A new CBA would likely immediately increase 2020's salary cap (the Athletic estimated a $5 million increase per team). But the best way for the Bears to create more cap space in 2020 is by borrowing from the Bank of Khalil. 

The Bears could create about $10 million in cap space by converting some of Mack’s base salary into a signing bonus, per Spotrac, and could also do the same with the contracts of Eddie Goldman, Kyle Fuller, Cody Whitehair and Akiem Hicks, if they so chose. 

The Bears would save a total of about $22.5 million in 2020 cap space by restructuring all five of those contracts. Add in a contract extension for Allen Robinson that could save a few million in 2020 and the Bears wind up with over $50 million in cap space this year. 

That’s a lot of cans to kick down the road, and it’s not without risk (injuries, age-based regression, etc.). It's also crazily aggressive, but who knows what contracts will look like in 2022 or 2023. Paying Mack $26 million then might look like a bargain, even as he plays into his 30s.  

So the money is there if the Bears really want it, and are willing to place a big bet on their 2020 roster. This space of the interweb has mostly been reserved for preaching the Bears’ need for salary cap prudence this offseason; it’s part of the reason why the expectation still is for Ryan Pace to target a backup who can “compete” with Mitch Trubisky, not a guy to start over him. 

But maybe the Bears can shop in a different aisle for that second quarterback. Instead of targeting a Case Keenum-type on a cheap, one-year contract, perhaps the Bears can pry Andy Dalton away from the Cincinnati Bengals and not worry about his $17.7 million cap hit. 

Maybe it means offering a contract to the guard or tight end Pace and Matt Nagy want, not the one they can afford. Needs at inside linebacker, cornerback and/or safety could be more readily addressed before the draft, freeing Pace up to actually stick to his “best player available” mantra. 

There is hope here if you want the Bears to be more aggressive in free agency than their current amount of cap space suggests they will be. That doesn’t mean the Bears are going to follow this path, though. The new CBA needs to be ratified first, of course, and maybe that immediately drives up prices in the free agent market, leaving the Bears in the same position they’re in now. 

But the Bears do have a way to inflate their salary cap balloon, and if they do, they might not need to totally worry about it popping a few years from now. It all depends on if the new CBA is ratified or not before the new league year begins in mid-March. 

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Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton is no longer a potential target for the Bears

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton is no longer a potential target for the Bears

Bears fans who were hoping Cam Newton would bring his Superman playing style to Soldier Field in 2020 aren't going to like the latest update on the Carolina Panthers' quarterback situation.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Panthers plan on sticking with Newton under center next season. 

Rapoport tweeted that Panthers coach Matt Rhule is encouraged by how hard Newton is working to get back to 100 percent. Having Newton in place will give the team some breathing room while the coaching staff addresses other areas in the rebuilding process.

The Bears have been one of the first teams mentioned as a possible trade partner for Newton and the Panthers this offseason. Mitch Trubisky's struggles in 2019 and Newton's reasonable cap hit for a starting quarterback, combined with his massive upside as a dominant playmaker in Chicago's offense, made it a logical speculation.

But as often happens this time of year, teams wise up and realize it's a good idea to keep great players on their roster. That's what the Panthers are doing with Newton and it will force Bears general manager Ryan Pace to look elsewhere in his effort to add competition (or even an upgrade) at quarterback.

RELATED: Tom Brady can help the Bears...by not signing with the Bears

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Taylor Gabriel says goodbye to Chicago in two-part Twitter post

Taylor Gabriel says goodbye to Chicago in two-part Twitter post

The Bears parted ways with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, releasing him and cornerback Prince Amukamara on Friday.

Gabriel, who played two seasons with the Bears, took to Twitter to thank the fans and the city of Chicago as a whole for his time with the squad. His kind message came attached to video clips of two of Gabriel's six receiving touchdowns as a Bear.

Over his two years and 25 games with the Bears, Gabriel racked up 96 receptions, 1,041 yards, and 6 touchdowns.

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