The way that I get most of my news about Bears personnel is watching the transactions wire. You can see it here.
Rather than taking what is speculated upon in the press or “scooped” by unreliable reporters, you can always look at the transactions listing with confidence. It is like math; the transactions listing is always black and white and doesn’t have an opinion. It is an open book for all to see and a teller of truth.
The most recent transaction was to place Lance Briggs on IR, which basically means that his season is over, and by extension, his career with the Bears. Lance got paid $4.75mm this year, plus a $500k roster bonus and $250k workout bonus. He is one of the highest paid linebackers in the league. But…he is 34, and now has 11 seasons under his belt. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
The only way I can see Briggs coming back with the Bears is if he takes a veteran minimum type of contract, but I doubt that will happen. In fact, I am 75% sure that Briggs will just hang it up. He has had a fantastic run and I imagine his body must be begging him for a break. Time for him to pick up a cush job endorsing some used car lot and making appearances on the Score for some extra bucks. While we are talking about moving on, I thought I would look at the Bears current roster and discuss the future a bit.
But before we get there, look at the transaction right before Briggs being put on IR. Brian de la Puente goes on IR as well. Damn our O line is just not deep enough, again. Anyways…
Here are the guys that I am 100% sure will be back with the team next year in no particular order:
Jared Allen, David Bass, Jon Bostic, Chrstian Jones, Brock Vereen, Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, Stephen Paea, Tim Jennings, Cornelius Washington (be prepared to see him possibly go on IR as well)
Martellus Bennett, Jermon Bushrod, Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills
Robbie Gould, Pat O’Donnell
You will note some interesting names off the list, first and foremost being Cutler. While he did just sign the deal, there are always things you can do to get out of the deal, and/or soften the blow on the cap – if the Bears can find a trading partner. But this goes back to what the long term vision of the upper management is. If they decide to ride this current staff out with their contracts, expect to see Cutler and Trestman back at Soldier field next year. If they decide to blow up things sooner, rather than later, you might see the following:
Cutler shopped, and Forte offered a new deal, or cut. Forte’s scheduled pay for next year is $6.65mm salary, plus $1.05mm roster bonus plus $100k workout bonus. If the Bears release him, it is only a $1mm dead money hit. With the market for running backs tanking the way that is has been with so many busts around the league, Forte has a decision to make. Take a restructure, or get cut. That is, if the Bears management is thinking soundly. Don’t get me wrong – I love Forte. But that position just isn’t worth this sort of money when you can liekely get a crazed SEC lunatic RB in the draft, pay him 20% of what Forte is making and get likely 85% of that production on the field. Then, use the new draftee up, cut him before the rookie deal is up, and get a new one. That is the new reality of the running back position – and Carl called this years ago to his credit.
I am also not 100% sure that Marshall will be back even though he just signed an extension this year. This is another guy with a million miles on him – and you could see that he was a step behind this year. His contract next year shows a $7.5mm base, with a $200k workout bonus. BUT the dead money associated with cutting Marshall is HUGE, at $13.125mm. So because of that, he may be traded, but if Marshall puts his foot down, he will be on the roster.
Cutler will be in year two of his deal, and he can’t be cut, as he would have almost $20mm in dead money associated with that, but he could be dealt. And I have no clue how the negotiations go in these situations where there is an existing contract.
Of course, this is all assuming that upper management wants to blow the whole thing up. If they do, they will need a year, and possibly two to unwind all of the cap room that we would need to field a good team once again. And realistically, the Bears could decide that internally and just not tell anyone. Trestman, if nothing else, will work his ass off to do what he can with what he has. You can say a lot of bad things about Trestman, but you cannot challenge his work ethic, or professionalism.
I imagine the Bears have already run some sort of regression to project what sort of costs are associated with blowing up everything now, or running everything into the ground one more year and then blowing it up. At least that is what I would do, if my team were in this situation. Just using a wild assed guess, I would bet that the numbers would show that running it down for one more year and getting out from under some of the current player and coaching contracts would be the way to go. I think this is what they did with Lovie. The only problem with this strategy is that if you end up making the playoffs, it makes it pretty damned hard to “Fire Everybody” as we like to call this humble space. And you never know in the NFL.
Looking at the coaches, we obviously need to jettison Tucker and de Camillis, along with a bunch of the other D coaches and it will be interesting to see what happens to Kromer. That is Trestman’s guy from way back in the day, but Emery might make a call on that. Trestman runs the offense anyways, so exactly what Kromer’s job is could be a topic for debate. I highly doubt that ownership would eat two years of Trestman’s deal, but stranger things have happened. Past experience, however, shows that the Bears don’t exactly like to do that sort of thing (see Lovie).
I would prefer not blowing up the whole thing and just being good with what we have, but that doesn’t look to be in the cards, sadly. As I have been saying, this will be one of the most interesting off seasons in recent memory. There are a lot of things in play with personnel and coaches. I remain positive, since the NFL changes extremely quickly. But I am also a realist and understand that so many things that look simple – aren’t. As I tend to say, individual events don’t necessarily happen in a vacuum – but keep a side eye on that transactions page I mentioned in the beginning of this (now way too long) post. It may share with you a lot of the untold story of what Bears coaching and management is thinking if you read between the lines.
*** Most of the above discussion has been about our offense because I honestly think we have a core group of guys on defense that could be a force someday, with the right coaching. Our last few drafts have been outstanding and with a little better positioning, or maybe a better scheme, we will be just fine. Obviously, a new defensive coordinator next year will be a huge help getting these guys in the right place at the right time.