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One of the great issues facing the new regime when the Bears put them in place will be aging.

It fermented in the background much of last offseason as a possibility until teams formed rosters. 

Then statistics came out revealing the Bears to be the oldest team in the NFL. Their average age of 27.0 years carried the same impact as looking in the mirror to discover the first gray hair or wrinkle.

The defense, especially, seemed compromised because of the great number of 30-somethings they had. When Alec Ogletree turned 30 during the season, it made for five defensive starters in their 30s. When your left tackle is 39, like Jason Peters, it tilts the scale more but the Bears had others on offense in this class. When the season started, their starting quarterback was 33-year-old Andy Dalton. And 34-year-old Jimmy Graham played heavy minutes.

The issue facing a new regime is whether to treat this all in one fell swoop, bringing in a flock of youngsters to replace all of those who are aging less and less gracefully, or to do it piecemeal.

Cash Is There if They're Willing

The real problem with older players is not so much their age or in many cases possible declining productivity, but rather their paychecks. Older players make more.

The Bears know all about this.

Next season Khalil Mack will have a $30 million cap cost for them at age 31. Robert Quinn at age 32 will be a cap cost of $17 million. It's their two biggest cap costs. Eddie Jackson is third at $15 million.

It's not like the Bears will be strapped for cash in 2022 like they in 2021, when they dumped cornerback Kyle Fuller at least partly because of cost. The cap is going to be back up in the estimated range of $208 million after fans went back to stadiums during 2021.

The Bears are said by to have $39.4 million available, 12th most and the most of all NFC North teams.

Still, it greatly depends on who takes over the helm as to how much of a youth movement will take place.

There has been an undercurrent of youth over the past two years anyway, but their aging players kept those numbers from being entirely apparent. When you've added new starters like Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson, Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom in the past two seasons, it's a really young core coming into its own at about the time others are aging out.

The $39.4 million available looks big but when you consider Roquan Smith is going to break the bank with a big chunk of that cash, and that right guard James Daniels and defensive end Bilal Nichols are young unrestricted free agents, the cash can start to vanish rapidly. Do they want to risk David Montgomery playing the season in the final year of his contract or get him an extension?

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Would new Bears guidance look at how they can recoup $13 million of that $30 million by cutting or trading Khalil Mack, or get back $13 million of the $17 million by doing the same with Robert Quinn, and then decide to go all in with a youth movement? It seems drastic, but there's no telling what these GMs and coaches are selling to George McCaskey and Bill Polian as they choose someone to run the team.

Youth Movements Test Fans' Patience

Trading or cutting Mack and/or Quinn would be a hard sell for fans who enjoy seeing opposing quarterbacks mashed to pieces. 

Then again, having those two on the roster together the last two years has produced 14 wins and 19 defeats. What's the difference if one of them gets traded or cut with those kind of numbers? They might even be able to bring in a younger player who eventually or immediately attains the kind of production numbers Mack and Quinn have had, and be available for much cheaper years down the road.

This is why including Miami senior personnel executive Reggie McKenzie among the GM groups raised some eyebrows. McKenzie was GM in Oakland when they traded Mack to the Bears. If they hired McKenzie, would he come in and trade Mack again?

It's all a question for the next crew coming in, whoever they may be.

Fans become attached to their players. The outcry when they don't use some of the cash to bring back Allen Robinson this year will no doubt be tremendous.

Multiply this 10-fold for trading Mack. And Quinn won some hearts this year by breaking Richard Dent's sacks record, so his departure would also be unpopular.

Oh for the simpler days with no cap or free agency, just the draft.

Then again, if you were stuck in the old days in third place at 6-11 like the Bears were this year, and with no free agency or cap, you could pretty much count on being there for a good three or four years unless you suddenly hit big time on a few draft picks.

There are big issues coming up for the Bears on how to address aging and whether it needs to be an all-inclusive youth movement.

It's going to decide whether Justin Fields goes forth with a group of players around him about his own age, or he plays with a mix as these older players continue to age out.

It also could mean losing for another year with young players while order is restored, and in that case it's the patience of Bears fans that really gets tested.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsonMaven