Greatest Bears Salary Cap Bargains for the 2024 Season

Analysis: A ranking of the best Bears players per cost for 2024, taking into account Caleb Williams hasn't actually signed a deal at this point.
T.J. Edwards brings down Carolina's Bryce Young after a scramble attempt last season. Edwards ranks among the biggest Bears bargains.
T.J. Edwards brings down Carolina's Bryce Young after a scramble attempt last season. Edwards ranks among the biggest Bears bargains. / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
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After the reported agreement to terms of Jayden Daniels with Washington, there are now only 15 players left unsigned in Round 1 including both Bears draft picks.

When Caleb Williams does sign, he'll be a bargain. Daniels' deal was reported as a $37 million, four-year contract with a fifth-year option, the standard first-round rookie deal.

Williams' won't be a great deal more and as such the Bears will have plenty of room under the cap to operate in the future because of the way the cap works but also because they're now doing a good job of structuring and fitting in contracts.

The quarterback on a first contract is always a bargain. Here are the biggest bargains the Bears will have in 2024. Even if they add someone, like a free agent pass rusher, these 10 will stand because any player they could bring in at this point is not going to have talent at a high enough quality to qualify for this list.

Cap figures for this story are from Spotrac.com unless noted.

10. LB Jack Sanborn

They're not going to find many players who can be on the field for over 700 snaps in a season and provide the level of play he does for less than $1 million in cap cost per year. Sanborn is in his third season and costs them $987,500 in 2024, which ties him for being the lowest cap cost among the 51 players whose totals count toward their salary cap. While he's only on the field as a strongside linebacker about 39% of the time or less, he had almost 300 special teams plays last year. His 64 and 65 tackles in each of his first two seasons cost them only $15,200 a tackle, or about a third of what it costs for T.J. Edwards or about 7.5% of the cost per each tackle by Tremaine Edmunds.

9. CB Tyrique Stevenson

In his case, it's the production and not the money that comes into question. He has a year experience and comes in at $1.466 million this year in cap cost., making him the 29th most expensive player on their roster. He had four interceptions last year, which was the most in the NFL by a rookie. He also got picked on and gave up nine touchdown passes, according to Spotrac.com. Only one NFL other cornerback gave up more. He becomes a bargain because the last six games of his rookie year constituted a definite surge in fewer big plays allowed and in bigger plays made. And it doesn't hurt that he costs very little compared to other starters.

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8. DT Andrew Billings

Their nose tackle gets the dirty work done by taking double teams off of the 3-technique but also making plays sometimes on his own in the A-gap and got a contract extenstion costing only $3.5 million for this year. The money is low but what seals this ranking is Billings' impact. He became a big reason why they shut off the run last year, going from next to last in the league to No. 1. In this scheme, stopping the run means so much in letting a defense rush the passer. In fact, it's that way in any scheme. Add to this the fact he is the one who tries in practice to get the offensive line to jump by yelling false cadences. There should be bonus pay for that aspect.

7. RB D'Andre Swift

The overall contract terms Swift signed for in free agency represented a decent amount of money but it's structured in a way to make him particularly cheap this season. He'll cost only $5.83 million against their cap this year. and could be handling the ball 250 times as a runner/receiver. Next year and in 2025 it will go up to $9.3 million and $8.83 million, so the Bears come away this year with a steal considering Swift has never been below 4.1 yards a carry and never made fewer than 39 receptions.

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6. CB Jaylon Johnson

He just got paid a huge contract. How is he a bargain? It's a legitimate question. The contract costs the Bears only $13 million this year. That's 5.09% of the team's salary cap, but he was the No. 1 ranked cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus and his salary cap cost this year is only the 14th highest for all NFL cornerbacks. His deal has $7.9 million in guaranteed salary on it and after this year the contract goes up to $21 million a year for three years. Of course, such a high ranking only looks accurate if he continues to perform like one of the league's best cornerbacks.

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5. LB T.J. Edwards

Edwards production-to-cost ratio is off the chart after only one year. He comes in as only the 22nd highest-paid linebacker in the league at $7.5 million against the cap, but he had one of the best seasons in 2023 for players in the league who failed to make the Pro Bowl. If there weren't so many other Bears who come in as bargains for production and cash paid, he might be one of the top two. Edwards was a bargain player for the Eagles in their Super Bowl season before he came to the Bears, as well.

4. RB Khalil Herbert

This is their starting running back from last year and he counts less than half a percent of their salary cap at $1.088 million. Herbert had the highest average per carry among all NFL running backs with at least 100 carries in 2022 (5.7 ypc) yet he ranks 34th against the Bears cap in cost this year. The main reason for this is it's the final year of his contract and he was a sixth-round draft pick. His only problem has been staying healthy. At this point, it would seem like it will be his final Bears season but stranger things have happened.

3. G Teven Jenkins

A starter who has ranked in the top 15 at his position in the NFL for two years, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Bears are getting him at a cap cost of $2.67 million this year. It's only 1.05% of their cap. Like Herbert, only Jenkins' record for getting injured prevents him from being one of the top two bargains on their roster. He

"I think if he stays healthy, he'll be one of the better ones in the league," offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. "We've got a ways to go and he knows that. A lot to work on, but that’s a goal."

So one of the bigger contracts for a guard should be the goal.

2. WR DJ Moore

One of the higher paid Bears is also one of their biggest bargains, at least for this year. This is because the Bears are absorbing only $16 million in cap cost for Moore this season as the 2023 offseason trade Ryan Poles made continues to reap benefits. A  player who had career highs in yards and receptions last year, should have been a Pro Bowl player, is only 27 years old and their best receiver in a decade, yet his average annual cost is only 17th highest among players at his position at $20.6 million. However, he actually costs them only $16 million this year, their fourth-highest cap cost. This is because of the structure of the deal. Compared to other average annual costs, it would rank 26th among all NFL receivers. When you see what Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown got on new contracts, Moore's deal looks dirt cheap. He's costing Chicago's salary cap about $7 million less for this season than receiver Keenan Allen will. Moore's contract is not up after this season, but he'll be in line for an extension after 2024 because it ends after 2025. Then, it will be time for a bigger wallet.

1. QB Caleb Williams

Sure, he hasn't signed yet but when he does he immediately becomes their biggest bargain based only on what he'll be paid in relation to other QB starters and the amount of time the football is in his hands. When he starts making touchdown throws, he'll become an even bigger bargain. He’ll be about the 21st highest paid quarterback based on annual cost and it’s going to be bargain for at least three seasons.

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Gene Chamberlain

GENE CHAMBERLAIN

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.