By Chris Emma–
(670 The Score) The new year tends to bring optimism for what’s to come, and that certainly was the case for Bears general manager Ryan Pace in January.
Speaking during his year-end press conference, Pace spoke about a team that had gone 14-34 in his three seasons in charge, but he believes the Bears have set a foundation for their future. He pointed to the young pieces like 23-year-old quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and then looked toward the offseason ahead.
“There’s some key positions that are going to take priority this offseason, and I feel really good about the resources we have,” Pace said. “Healthy cap, top-10 pick, seven draft picks. We just need to attack it the right way.”
Before Pace and the Bears begin attacking in free agency and beyond, they’re focused on making their salary cap standing even healthier. On Tuesday, the Bears released veteran linebacker Jerrell Freeman and informed 31-year-old guard Josh Sitton his team option would be declined. Releasing Freeman, a repeat offender of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, opened up $3 million in cap space. Moving on from Sitton saved nearly $8 million from the books. There’s more to come.
The Bears will all but certainly release quarterback Mike Glennon at some point soon, which will clear $11.5 million. Glennon will walk away with $18.5 million for four starts and four touchdowns during a brief stint as the Bears’ starting quarterback.
Pace could wipe out much of a 2017 free-agent class that can best be described as underwhelming. Releasing receiver Markus Wheaton, who caught three passes last season, would save the Bears $5 million. Moving on from cornerback Marcus Cooper would clear $4.5 million.
If the blocking abilities of tight end Dion Sims aren’t worth the premium price in Pace’s mind, he can save $5.6 million in cap space. Should the Bears feel confident in Adrian Amos at safety next to Eddie Jackson, they can open up $3.6 million by releasing Quintin Demps.
Pace can part ways with his first major free-agent signing in linebacker Pernell McPhee — who has endured injuries to both knees during his time in Chicago — and save $7 million more in cap space.
Stack all of those savings, and the Bears would have more than $88 million in cap space available, according to Spotrac numbers. Even if Pace stands by some of his signings for another year, the Bears will still be positioned with more cap space than most teams in the league.