To consider Phil Emery's declaration of no contract extensions in 2013 as a potential evaluation tool for the season might be digging a little too deeply into the matter. The announcement seemed more about being up front and squashing distractions before they can swell.
The reality is the Bears sit approximately $1.6 million under the cap. Not much wiggle room at all. Yes, kicker Robbie Gould was correct Wednesday night when he told ESPN Chicago 1000 that "if they wanted a guy, they're going to find a way to sign him if it meant that much to him."
But to do that, the Bears would need to make several moves such as contract restructures (let's not forget that the restructured party has to agree with it), cuts, trades, etc. to make it work under the cap. With a roster so heavy on players with one-year deals or contracts set to expire at the end of 2013 -- including several key cogs expected to command big-money deal -- that simply doesn't make sense for Emery, who basically might have to sacrifice short-term success/happiness of the players to set up the franchise responsibly for the long term.
By being up front and letting everyone know before the first practice of training camp that he doesn't anticipate signing anyone to extensions during the season, Emery likely upset a few Bears with deals set to expire. The GM also knows those rankled feelings will likely subside quickly once the team turns its focus toward the ultimate goal: a Super Bowl championship.
Emery mentioned he prefers a player's focus to be on football during the season, and not contract matters. It's a possible Emery's declaration could backfire, no doubt.
As Gould mentioned on Wednesday, the GM's approach could be disastrous for the franchise because leverage -- or lack of it on the team's part -- will lead to the Bears paying more after the 2013 season because of competition from other teams on the free-agent market than they would now if they signed pending free agents to extensions, or risk mass exodus.
For an evaluator like Emery, that's a risk he's got to take because too many potential core players are up for new deals after the season. By doing everything possible now to sign those players, Emery risks negatively affecting other parts of the roster, and potentially saddling the team with descending, not ascending players.
Of the 43 players with deals set to expire after the season, 10 players who are starters or key role players are currently 29 or older.
So while Emery could potentially be playing a dangerous game by opting not to hand out extensions during the season, it's a game he's absolutely got to play. You don't buy a car without taking a test drive.
Consider 2013 that spin around the block.