The Chicago Bears are very likely going to look a lot different next season.
With an average age of 27 years old, the Bears have the oldest roster in the NFL, and based on their lackluster performance against the Los Angeles Rams Week 1, that age is starting to show in a big way.
In his September 11 column for The Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs listed the players slated to be unrestricted free agents for the Bears when the 2021 season concludes, and it’s quite a long one:
- Defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols
- Linebackers Alec Ogletree, Christian Jones and Joel Iyiegbuniwe
- Defensive backs Tashaun Gipson, Artie Burns, DeAndre Houston-Carson, Deon Bush and Marqui Christian
- Quarterback Andy Dalton
- Wide receivers Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd and Breshad Perriman
- Running back Damien Williams
- Offensive linemen Jason Peters, Germain Ifedi, James Daniels and Elijah Wilkinson
- Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Jesse James.
Biggs then revealed encouraging information about the team’s potential 2022 roster courtesy of one a top salary cap expert.
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OTC’s Jason Fitzgerald Says Bears Can Do ‘Reset Next Year’
The Bears are projected to have $42.5 million in cap space next season, per Over the Cap. Salary cap expert Jason Fitzgerald of OTC gave Biggs encouraging news about a potential roster reset that should come for Chicago in 2022, with the team likely getting rid of several veterans who are currently collecting hefty paychecks.
“This was probably the last year it was going to run with a lot of these same guys and really where the Bears are kind of under the gun with the salary cap,” Fitzgerald told Biggs about the Bears’ fiscal situation in 2021, adding this interesting tidbit about how the drafting of Justin Fields should help them out next season:
They can do a bit of a reset next year, start to remake the roster and I would imagine get their salary cap in order unless they go down the Atlanta Falcons’ path where they just double and triple down on every single player and you bring everybody back and you screw yourself up. The Bears would be in so much worse shape if they didn’t draft a quarterback. (Fields) gives them so many more options going into a retooling mode on the fly. Other teams don’t get that luxury. If they didn’t get Fields to fall to them, they’d be sitting there playing tag with Andy Dalton or Ryan Fitzpatrick every year. This at least gives them a good opportunity to get out of this and maybe move forward versus this sideways trajectory that is going nowhere.
That would be great news for a Bears team that has looked stuck like a stick in mud for the last 2+ seasons. If players like Danny Trevathan, Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack don’t perform well this year, they could very well be playing for new teams in 2022.
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Veterans Like Mack Could Absolutely Be On the Move Next Season
Back in August, Vic Tafur of The Athletic reported that the Las Vegas Raiders tried to re-acquire All-Pro Khalil Mack via trade prior to the season. The Bears turned them down, according to Tafur. If he has a third straight season in which he fails to produce double-digit sacks, however, Chicago may try to move Mack via trade in 2022.
The superstar pass rusher turned 30 this year, and he has a base salary of $12,050,000 million next season. He also carries a cap hit of $30,150,000, per Spotrac. That makes him the highest-paid player on Chicago’s roster next year, and for a team that will need to build around its rookie QB, moving on in exchange for some draft capital might be the best way to go.