Russell Wilson Would Be a Lonely Chicago Bear

Many of the better players on this year's Bears roster would be gone if the team found the unlikely formula for acquiring Russell Wilson, and the only way to replace them this year would be with undrafted free agents or Day 3 draft picks.
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The rush to celebrate Russell Wilson naming Chicago as one of four possible destinations he'd go in the event of a trade has failed to take into account a few minor details.

For one, the Bears have no more to offer now in a deal to acquire Wilson than they would have had to obtain Deshaun Watson. It was insufficient then. It is now.

The only difference with Wilson is fewer teams would be involved who have more to offer. The Bears would finish second or third in an attempt to get Wilson rather than ninth or 10th, like they would in trying to land Watson. Congratulations. There are no parting gifts for any of this. You win or go home empty handed.

None of this seems to bother readers or viewers who love living in a fantasy world.

The Seahawks want something in exchange. This is not free agency. The Bears have less to give than others.

The other detail is this murky underworld where most fans dare not venture: the salary cap.

The Bears are $2.5 million over it as March approaches, according to Overthecap.com. They need to cut some salary just to be under the cap by the start of the NFL calendar on March 17.

These figures do not include Allen Robinson as part of their team since he hasn't yet been officially tagged. If they put a franchise tag on Robinson, it will mean they need to cut $18 million more or restructure that much more out of existing deals, which is extremely difficult.

Obviously, if they found a way to bring Russell Wilson to Chicago they would need to find a way to fit him in under their salary cap. 

Wilson has a cap hit of $32 million in 2021.

This sounds impossible considering the cash situation the Bears already face.

Guess what? It's even worse.

Wilson's contract for this year has $19 million in salary on it, which is normally a good thing for restructuring a deal to make it work under the cap. However, Wilson's contract calls for the salary to be guaranteed five days after the Buccaneers beat the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. 

So the deadline has passed and this is all guaranteed money. There is nothing to play with in terms of restructuring his non-guaranteed salary for 2021 so that it counts against a team's cap in future years as prorated bonus.

In other words, the Bears are doing a lot more roster cutting if they want to trade for Wilson.

There are some players they can’t cut at all because it would cause them to actually lose what little cap space they have.

Here are the players they can't cut because it would cause them to lose even more cap space, as per Spotrac.com:

  • Cut Khalil Mack and you lose $11.454 million of available cap space.
  • Cut Robert Quinn, lose $9.2 million cap space.
  • Cut Danny Trevathan, lose $8.42 million cap space.
  • Cut Eddie Jackson, lose $7.1 million cap space.
  • Cut Eddie Goldman, lose $5.05 million cap space.
  • Cut Nick Foles, lose $3.6 million cap space
  • Cut Tarik Cohen, lose $3.4 million cap space.

If the Bears cut all of these players they would regain money sufficient to meet Wilson's contract requirements for just 2021. This doesn't even take into account finding a way to get Seattle to agree to a trade:

  • Kyle Fuller $11 million
  • Akiem Hicks $10.5 million
  • Jimmy Graham $7 million
  • Bobby Massie $5.4 million
  • Buster Skrine $2.7 million

To do it and also pay Allen Robinson would require restructuring contracts for two or three players in order to gain back about $10 to $12 million. And then they also would have to cut:

  • Charles Leno Jr. $6.2 million
  • James Daniels $2.2 million
  • Bilal Nichols $2.2 million
  • Anthony Miller $1.2 million

The Bears with Wilson and Robinson would have David Montgomery, Mack,  Roquan Smith, and then a roster full of rookies and undrafted free agents because the cap wouldn't allow for anything else.  

Where are they getting the tackles to replace Leno and Massie? Where are they getting defensive linemen to replace Hicks and Nichols? In the draft? 

They'd need to rebuild their defensive line around Eddie Goldman without using Day 1 or 2 draft picks or unrestricted free agency, while also finding two tackles and another tight end on offense the same way.

They're trading away their draft picks to get Wilson. 

If Wilson didn't like being hit in Seattle, then he'd really dislike Chicago because the hits will be far more frequent behind a line even more shaky.

Wilson's deal was the highest average paid contract in history at the time of its signing in 2019. You can't just assume a contract of this type with tons of guarantees written into it and have it work for a team with no cap space, especially one with a top receiver who is becoming a free agent.

Writing for Overthecap.com, Jason Fitzgerald analyzed the cap and football situations of all four teams involved in the Wilson's comment.

What he concluded is moving Wilson makes no sense for Seattle because of the contract, but it makes possibly the least sense for him to come to Chicago.

"The window in Chicago is pretty much closed at this point," Fitzgerald wrote. "The team has drafted poorly and their better veterans are on the wrong side of the age curve. Trading for Wilson would basically force the team into a massive extension for Allen Robinson and lots of restructured/extended contracts for players most teams would be looking at more as a one-year contributor rather than a long-term answer. This could very easily be a one-year push and then a salary cap disaster where they (the Bears) struggle even with the top QB. To be honest I am not even sure why Wilson would consider this situation." 

Another part of the problem for Seattle is if it dealt with the Bears, the only quarterback the Seahawks could get in return is Nick Foles. Both the Raiders and Cowboys could offer successful veteran quarterbacks.

Fitzgerald concluded: "From the Seahawks perspective, other than landing Prescott, I cannot come up with a reason for why Seattle would trade Wilson. They already paid him a lot of money and have a team that needs a quality QB right now."

As murky as it is, welcome to the real world of the NFL Bears fans.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven