In one of the more mysterious moves of the past week, the Chicago Bears cleared up $4 million in cap space. Why would they do it?
Robert Ayers among some possible quiet NFL free agency pursuits
Quite often when a team clears up cap space out of nowhere it gives fans a reason to think their team is about to make a signing in NFL free agency. That’s not unheard of by any stretch and wouldn’t surprise Bears fans since their team has vowed to continue adding to the roster throughout the off-season. Still though, it was largely felt the main series of moves by Chicago were in the rearview mirror. They still had over $7 million in cap space which was enough to absorb the incoming rookie class from the draft and a few other cheap free agents to round out the roster. Then the news dropped that the team had tweaked the new contract of quarterback Jay Cutler, converting a portion into a signing bonus and thus clearing up another $4 million in space. At present the Chicago Bears sit at around $10.4 million in space. That could rise to over $11 million once the expected release of wide receiver Eric Weems comes to pass. If they are indeed in pursuit of another notable free agent there are some names to keep track of. Robert Ayers, who posted 5.5 sacks for Denver last season is still on the market. His pass rush ability would be most welcome to a defensive end unit that is still rebuilding.
Phil Emery may have learned from Sedrick Ellis mishap in 2013
However, this salary cap move could be more of a precautionary active by GM Phil Emery. Chicago Bears fans remember vividly the disasters that took place on defense a year ago, largely thanks to a rash of injuries. Much of that can be traced back to the 2013 off-season. Emery, much like this year went about filling certain needs on the roster through free agency. One of his most underrated at the time was inking former Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who was viewed as a great fit for their system and destined to become a regular rotational guy behind Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. Then, out of the blue, Ellis announced his retirement at the age of 28. His exit left the depth of the Bears defensive tackle position dangerously thin. Lo and behold Melton goes down with a torn ACL in week three and his backup Nate Collins followed suit a couple weeks later. Without Ellis there to minimize the damage the Bears defensive line went into a tailspin and with it the rest of the defense as it finished 30th overall. By giving himself breathing room this time, Emery will be in a much better position in terms of a available spending money to go out and get a suitable emergency replacement if and when the Bears need one in 2014. It’s a situation that shows Emery continues to learn from previous mistakes and bodes well for the future.