Why Bears Future Could Be in ‘Serious Trouble’ in 2021

Bears Eddie Jackson COVID

Getty Eddie Jackson was placed on the Bears' COVID-19-reserve list today.

The Chicago Bears have gone 20-12 over the last two seasons after going 8-24 in 2016-17, but the team and its fans could be in for a major letdown moving forward. Despite not having a season below .500 in the last two years, The Ringer’s Robert Mays (who also happens to be a Bears fan) broke down Chicago’s recent “rut,” and he came to the conclusion that the Bears are on the brink of collapse — again.

Mays thinks Chicago’s 2020 season, even if it goes as well as possible, won’t lead to a ring. For the Bears, he says, the “best-case scenario season likely doesn’t end with a Super Bowl win, and a worst-case scenario season means another year of mediocrity.” He cites teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints as having better all-around rosters as the primary reason Chicago won’t win it all this upcoming season — but it’s what Mays says about the Bears in 2021 that may be most concerning.

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If NFL’s Salary Cap Decreases in 2021, Chicago’s Roster Will See Major Changes

The coronavirus crisis could wind up drastically impacting the Bears and their roster moving forward. Due to their loaded defense and some recent contract restructures utilized to free cap space, the Bears are going to owe a ton of key, core players money — and if their cap gets reduced due to no attendance and less revenue at NFL games this season, they’re not going to have the money to pay them all.

“If fanless stadiums lead to a decrease in the salary cap in 2021, teams like Chicago that tinkered with deals to create immediate cap relief (most notably with cornerback Kyle Fuller, who’s now set to carry a cap hit of $20 million in 2021) could be in serious trouble,” Mays says, and he’s absolutely right. He mentions Fuller, but the All-Pro corner is just one of many players due hefty sums in 2021. Here’s a sample of the team’s current 2021 salary cap situation, per Spotrac:

  1. Owe Khalil Mack $26.6 million
  2. Owe Kyle Fuller $20 million
  3. Owe Robert Quinn $14.7 million
  4. Owe Akiem Hicks $12 million
  5. Owe Eddie Goldman $11.8 million
  6. Owe Eddie Jackson $11.4 million

Those six players alone account for almost $100 million, (and include four All-Pros and a Pro Bowler) — and they’re all on one side of the ball. NFL insider Adam Schefter has said that financial losses due to COVID-19 could force NFL teams to work with caps reduced by as much as $70-80 million in 2021, which means barring a miracle, there’s no way Chicago will be able to keep all six of those players together.

Mays: Pace Has Been ‘Playing Jenga’ With Team’s Roster

General manager Ryan Pace’s decision to trade away draft picks has also left the Bears treading in perilous waters. Mays blames Pace’s “roster Jenga” for the team’s current lack of exciting young prospects:

“After dealing two first-round picks for Mack and other high selections to trade up for Miller and Montgomery, the Bears are bereft of homegrown prospects. Throw in the looming complications of a salary-cap decrease and the win-now financial moves that the Bears have made in the past few offseasons, and the idea of trading away more draft capital becomes even riskier. Pace has been playing Jenga with this roster for years, and if he continues to yank away the foundation, the entire structure is going to come crashing down.”

If decreased revenue in 2020 leads to a reduced salary cap in 2021, the Bears will be in for a long walk treading on hot coals. While Mays may be presumptive in his insistence the Bears have zero chance of winning the Super Bowl (any given team can win on any given Sunday, which is one of the joys of the game), he’s correct to be concerned about the future in Chicago.

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