By Greg Gabriel–
(670 The Score) Over the next month, the decisions the Bears make will have a determination on what they do in free agency in March and the NFL Draft in late April. The Bears have 19 free agents, and they have to make a decision on which players to try and re-sign to contracts for the 2018 season and possibly beyond.
One of the notable decisions revolve around reserve quarterback Mike Glennon, who’s due to make $12.5 million in 2018. If he’s cut, the Bears pick up $11.5 million in cap space. Right now, the Bears have roughly $41 million in cap space going into the league year. That additional $11.5 million would help them tremendously in the free-agent market, which is why after a poor showing in 2017, Glennon is expected to be cut.
The more difficult decisions surround what the Bears do with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, who were the Bears’ starting cornerback tandem for most of 2017. Between them, the Bears received some of their best cornerback play in years.
Because the defensive staff was kept intact when new coach Matt Nagy was hired, the Bears know what Fuller and Amukamara can do. Fuller turns 26 on Friday, while Amukamara turns 29 in June. They both have plenty of good football left.
Do the Bears risk losing either or both? If that happens, they will need have to find replacements in either in the free agency or the draft. Chicago may be better off attempting to keep the pair, as the cost will likely be less prohibitive than chasing the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler or the Rams’ Trumaine Johnson in free agency.
Another important position when it comes to re-signing players is outside linebacker. Right now, that could be one of the weaker positions on the team. Pace’s first big signing when he came to Chicago in 2015 ago was outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. When healthy, McPhee has played well. The problem is he has missed 12 games across three seasons and often been slowed by nagging injuries when he does play, which has clearly affected his play.
The Bears could cut McPhee and pick up a little more than $7 million in cap space. If that turns out to be the case, then it might be wise for the Bears to try and re-sign either Lamarr Houston or Sam Acho, if not both. Leonard Floyd, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, has missed a combined 10 games in his first two seasons. Willie Young has also has problems with injuries.
At receiver, both Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright will hit the open market if not re-signed by March 14. The Bears got Inman in a trade from the Chargers right before the trade deadline last October for nothing. Because Inman didn’t tally 25 receptions the Bears, they don’t owe the Chargers a conditional seventh-round pick. The Bears added Wright in free agency on a one-year deal last spring, and he was their leading receiver with 59 receptions.
The offense that the Bears will run under Nagy will be predicated on speed and quickness at the receiver position. Inman is a tall, long receiver with good speed. Coming out of college, he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash. Wright also has the speed and quickness that Nagy wants, so it will be interesting to see how general manager Ryan Pace and Nagy approach their situations, as it will tell us a lot about what the Bears will do in free agency and possibly the draft when it comes to wide receivers.
On the offensive line, the Bears have a decision to make on guard Josh Sitton, on whom they hold a team option for 2018. The Bears have about three more weeks in which to exercise that option. If they don’t, guard becomes a huge need in either free agency or the draft.
By not picking up the option, the Bears would net an added $7 million in cap space. Releasing Sitton, Glennon and McPhee would give them roughly $66 million to use in free agency. Needless to say, the decisions made the next few weeks are crucial.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.