With the NFL set to release its schedule Wednesday evening, Bears rookie minicamp starting Friday and on-field voluntary work for the full team slated for next week, it would appear some type of roster move could be forthcoming.
Forthcoming might actually be a stretch. These could happen any time until the season starts or even after it.
The signing last week of Damiere Byrd by the Bears came at a cost of $1.127 million for this season with $387,500 guaranteed, according to Overthecap.com.
The website lists the Bears as being $289,852 under the cap for players currently under contract, but $3.55 million over it in terms of commitment to its top 51 players according to salary.
None of this must be rectified until they plan to get their rookies contracts and cutting Charles Leno Jr. with a post-June 1 designation should allow just enough money to get those contracts done.
Eventually, everything must be squared away and there are three potential moves ahead. Some are more likely than others.
3. Anthony Miller's Trade or Release
Wide receiver Anthony Miller was reportedly being shopped around prior to the draft but nothing happened.
This doesn't indicate a deal is no longer possible, Miller will be released or even that a deal is imminent.
June 1 is an important salary cap date in the NFL in terms of contracts but in Miller's case it carries no meaning. He is in the final year of his contract and if the Bears cut him or traded him now or after June 1 the cap savings situation is the same -- $1.2 million.
The fact Miller is still with the team indicates they couldn't get the deal they wanted and want to play it safe.
It could mean they simply will keep him around and see if he can make the kind of progress they hoped for last year when he regressed by three receptions to 49 receptions and by 171 yards to only 485. The fight and ejection from a playoff game added to his down season, but there is nothing to suggest Miller can't come back from all of this provided he's better with his commitment to the playbook and the offense than coaches said he was in the past.
The Bears just drafted North Carolina's Dazz Newsome in the sixth round and he plays the same position as Miller. He might even be more of a true slot receiver than Miller. Byrd plays either outside or in the slot, as well.
However, having Miller for competition and to see if he might turn it around makes sense. Also, it might turn out neither Byrd nor Newsome can play up to Miller's level. They at least need to take a look at this in practices this spring.
What makes even more sense is holding on to Miller until another team in the league has a camp injury or preseason injury and is willing to give more in trade compensation for him. The Bears are under no pressure to get rid of Miller and his salary at $1.2 million places no drag on their cap situation.
2. Nick Foles Trade or Release
If the Bears want to cut Foles, they simply could do it and designate him as a post-June 1 release. Teams are allowed to make two such delayed moves and the Charles Leno Jr. move was one the Bears made. They could do one more if they wanted but haven't.
Perhaps they want to wait til see how much of the offense Justin Fields picks up in the few on-field practices they have prior to June 1 before they make him their backup and release or trade Foles.
Adam Caplan of Sirius XM reported the Bears attempt to trade Foles to the Philadelphia Eagles and possibly some other teams but were rejected. Just before the Carson Wentz deal, speculation ran wild Foles would be a part of this if the Bears traded with the Eagles.
Foles' $4 million in salary this year is guaranteed and the Bears wouldn't save this unless they traded him after June 1. So if he is traded, it would be then.
Like with Miller, there is real value to having Foles around during and even through offseason work in mid-June. In fact, a good argument can be made for keeping him as a third quarterback and even the backup ahead of Justin Fields for a few weeks of the regular season.
Throwing a rookie quarterback on the field immediately never seems to go well. At least letting Fields see how it all works the first few weeks of the season makes sense. Having Fields behind Foles for the first few weeks makes sense from that end, although coach Matt Nagy would have plenty of people outside the organization fighting him on this.
Any team in need of a quarterback might be interested him Foles so having him at least on the roster as a third-team player until the October trade deadline could make sense.
Then again, if Fields comes in and looks like his progress is rapid then it wouldn't be a surprise to see Foles simply cut after June 1. The total savings for the Bears would only be about $1 million then.
3. Allen Robinson long-term contract
Letting Robinson play for the whole year on a franchise tag makes no sense unless the Bears really do plan to let him simply walk next year. It makes even less sense considering Robinson's talent level, the fact he's still only 28 and they have no one on the roster really capable of replacing him.
The fact they can actually save themselves money for this year by giving him a contract only adds to the possibility this extension will occur. They prorate the bonus money over five years, make more of 2021 cap cost as bonus instead of salary and the savings occurs.
The Bears already are projected as having the 12th most cap space for 2022 at $32.8 million by Overthecap.com. It might be more if revenues pick up for the league this year with the pandemic's effect lessened. Getting Robinson the new deal makes all the sense in the world and can even provide cap space to operate the team during this season.
Pace gave contract extensions to Cody Whitehair in 2019 and Akiem Hicks in 2017 at the beginning of September, just prior to the regular season. Those were different situations.
Because Robinson has been tagged, he must receive his contract extension by July 15 or play this year on the franchise tag.
In this case unlike with Foles and Miller, there is a deadline for a move occurring prior to camp or the season.