Originally posted on Midway Illustrated  |  Last updated 3/7/13
The Chicago Bears are in a hell of a salary cap and financial crunch on a level with some of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL.  This fact has gone completely unnoticed by even the most nuanced NFL analysts and Bears beat reporters.   The problem has gone unnoticed because prior to Henry Melton being designated the franchise player the Bears were under the salary cap.  The Bears are just barely under the 2013 salary cap now with Melton's franchise tag guarantee, but have seven free agents of their own that would likely fit into the 2013 season plans. Those seven players that the Bears likely would consider bringing back are in no particular order, DE Israel Idonije, DT Nate Collins, CB, Kelvin Hayden, LB Nick Roach, LB Brian Urlacher, LB Geno Hayes, RG Lance Louis, and OT Jonathan Scott.  There are 11 other players that fit into a category of questionable or will not be brought back for the 2013 season.  Being able to understand the complex nature of the NFL collective bargaining agreement and the inner workings of player contracts is not an easy thing to do.  The basic fundamental thing to understand is this, each player has a base salary, but they also accumulate different  bonuses and/or guaranteed salary per year that make up what is known as their salary cap hit.    The salary cap hit is the total that one single player will count towards the salary cap for the 2013 season.   If the Bears decide to cut a player who only has a base salary left to be paid on his contract, that player's money does not count against the salary cap.  Base salaries in the NFL are not guaranteed, but certain bonuses and guarantees represent money that teams are responsible regardless of if that player still remains on the roster, even if that money has to be paid at a later date.  This means a player like Charles Tillman if he was cut (the Bears won't nor should they cut him) would only count $50,000 against the 2013 salary cap rather than the $8-million is slated to earn.  Tillman becomes a candidate for an extension because the Bears can reduce his base salary this year by guaranteeing him that $8-millioin in the form of a signing bonus which can be spread out over the length of that contract extension.  $8-million can become $4-million with the latter $4-million becoming bonus money spread out over the duration of a contract extension to lessen the amount due now.  The essential problem the Bears face is they are right up against the 2013 salary cap and have a lot of their own players they would like to re-sign but they would also like to add other players to their roster.  Adding other high priced players to their roster is going to be a  major problem unless the Bears begin to cut players who have a high base salary and low bonus money left over the life of their contracts.  Either that or they extend players they want to remain on the roster in order to lessen the money they are due this season.  What does it all mean?  The likelihood that the Bears are going to go out and spend on a big name free agent during the 2013 season is likely slim to none. 
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