If the Chicago Bears want to improve the roster this offseason, they need to clear some salary cap space. They started doing that by cutting cornerback Buster Skrine.
The Chicago Bears need to clear salary cap space for them to assemble a winning roster this offseason. They were over the projected $191 million that is projected for 2022. They get to carry over about $7.6 million from 2020 so that helps, but they need to make some tough decisions on certain players and re-do other contracts.
The team made its first move to clear cap space this week. They made a decision that likely wasn’t too tough to make — they cut cornerback Buster Skrine. Skrine had a good season in 2019 but regressed in 2020 before a concussion wiped out the last four games of the regular season and the playoff game. His 2020 season was miserable. Opposing quarterbacks completed 78.1 percent of the passes targeting him and had a passer rating of 125.7 against him. At 32 years of age and a history of concussions (his latest was the sixth of his career), the thinking was that he wouldn’t be worth the money he was due to receiver in 2021.
That made the decision to cut him easier. By cutting him, they save about $3 million by making it an immediate cut, but if they make a June 1 designation they save over $4.9 million. That is a solid first move to create more cap space.
Skrine signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed. His strong 2019 gave the team hopes heading into this season. He played in 68 percent of the defensive snaps and 28 percent of the special teams snaps. Those went down to 52 percent of defensive snaps and 18 percent of special teams snaps.
The Bears still need more moves to make
The Bears still need to make move moves. They have some holes to fill (along the offensive line, for example), and the Allen Robinson contract situation looms large. If the Bears want to attract any decent quarterback they need to have Robinson in the fold. The two sides may not come up with a multi-year deal, but the team could still franchise him. They need to add some space to keep him.
There are other cuts the team should make to clear up even more space. They have Charles Leno Jr and Bobby Massie as their tackles. Leno struggled the past two seasons and it looks more and more like his excellent 2018 season is the exception and not the rule. Massie played well when he was on the field but he missed 14 games in the past two seasons. He’ll be 32 when the season begins and when the injuries start to pile up it doesn’t get better.
If the Bears cut Leno, they save $9 million. If they cut Massie, they save $8 million. I’m not sure if the team cuts both of them. They could cut one this offseason and the other next year. Of course, if they want to make a big move to overhaul the offensive line they could cut both and use some of the $17 million in cap space on that line and on other areas.
In terms of redoing contracts, there are a few options. With Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Eddie Jackson, the Bears could free up over $28 million. They likely won’t restructure all of those contracts but if they do, and they make the other aforementioned moves, they free up about $52.4 million in cap space. That is plenty of money to make a big improvement to the roster.
Will general manager Ryan Pace do those moves? Well, he and head coach Matt Nagy are on the hot seat already. This is likely their last chance to get the team back on track. Pace should do whatever he can to build a winning team. He could feel the pressure and make big moves. The Skrine move is the first of what should be a number of moves needed to be made.