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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
GM: Not much wiggle room now with cap

By Michael C. Wright

Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod
The Bears unveiled their free agent additions in Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod on Wednesday.
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said the recent free-agent acquisitions of offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett don't ostensibly "shut us down" in possibly adding more to the roster, but admitted "there's not a lot of room to wiggle" with the salary cap.

The Bears signed Bushrod and Bennett to deals approaching a combined
$60 million, and looked to offset that by jettisoning tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth, along with defensive tackle Matt Toeiana to reach $5.25 million in salary cap savings.

With several of its own players on the market such as linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, who is scheduled to meet with the Oakland Raiders, as well as starting guard Lance Louis, defensive end Israel Idonije, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, Chicago faces a difficult process in trying to bring back any of them, let alone free agents from outside the organization.

The Bears entered free agency with approximately $7 million in cap space. Bushrod counts a little more than $3 million against the cap for 2013, while Bennett will carry a cap hit of $1.94 million.

"It just means that every signing is gonna be scrutinized in terms of us, in terms of current cap implications and future," Emery said.
"There aren't a lot of dollars in terms of -- I don't want to say frivolous -- but there's not a lot of room to wiggle. So when we talk contract negotiations with free agents and the implications of those, definitely that's always in the forefront for us. We are up against the cap."

That all but eliminates the Bears from contention in free agency for any more potential starters, namely more upgrades along the offensive line.

"In terms of flexibility, are we gonna be able to go out and sign a starting right tackle at starting right tackle money? No," Emery said.
"Are we gonna be able to go out and sign in the UFA market a starting guard? No."

Going into free agency, the Bears explored the possibility of adding New York Jets guard Brandon Moore. After the first wave of free agency on Tuesday, an NFL source said on Wednesday morning that the Bears were no longer in the mix for Moore. That's not to say the Bears are totally done in free agency. They could still look to add backup players down the line as the money quickly dries up in free agency.

"We looked last year at how our signings fell," Emery said. "We had several the first week, and then we had signings all the way up to the end of April. So I would anticipate that we're gonna have a spread of signings. It'll be in small bits more than batches."

More cuts could be on the way, too; especially if talks heat up with some of their own veterans currently out on the market. Before making the decision to release Toeaina, the Bears approached him about taking a pay cut, which the defensive tackle declined, according to his agent Angelo Wright. To free up more cap room, the team could take similar approaches with other players as well.

"Each and every day we've got to evaluate that through the process of looking at who we're gonna sign back, what kind of impact it has on our overall team and our cap, and proceed from there," Emery said. "So that could mean releasing other players. That could mean we keep everybody we have."