Surely, the Bears are still in an information-gathering mode when it comes to Cedric Benson.
Two days after his arrest on Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, there are vastly different stories being told by the running back and the Lower Colorado River Authority. The NFL, no doubt, is also looking into the matter. While Benson is not in danger of being zapped like Tank Johnson was with an eight-game suspension last year, commissioner Roger Goodell can hand out one-game suspensions like others give out Halloween candy. They’re not tough to get.
Cutting bait with Benson is not going to create any kind of savings for the Bears in terms of the salary cap. None at all.
Benson’s salary-cap figure for 2008 is $3.335 million and if the Bears cut him before June 1 and do not exercise an option to spread the dead money over two seasons, the hit for this year would be roughly $6 million. That would be cutting a sizeable slice into the pie that’s meant to go to Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Robbie Gould and others in the form of longterm extensions.
If the Bears did a post-June 1 cut, or cut him now and had the money go on the books as a post-June 1 cut, they would still be on the books for more than $2.5 million this season when subtracting out his base pay of $820,000 for 2008.
However, Benson’s contract contains a conditional injury guarantee for that base pay and he could claim his release was due to the broken left leg suffered last November against Denver. Of course, the team could claim he was healthy and off the parties could go into a grievance that would drag on and on. The guarantee, in effect, would mean he would cost the team the full $3.335 million against the camp whether he’s on the roster or not this season. You'd have to like the chances of a running back in a hearing who can show he's had a plate and screws inserted into his leg and ankle.
In 2009, Benson’s cap number is $3.535 million, and his base pay climbs to $1,020,000. That base pay includes a partial guarantee of $910,000 in he event of injury, but that’s only for an injury occurring in the prior contract year. So, it would not apply here, but the remaining $2.515 million would be dead money vs. the cap in 2009.
So, however you want to slice it, whether Benson is a Bear or not, he will count against the salary cap. Sending him away isn’t going to create any savings at all.
And let me throw this one out there ... the ongoing discussions with Harris, Hester and Gould are well documented. The Bears had discussions with representatives for all three players in advance of the draft. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but the Bears have had a way in the past of finding some good news to trump bad P.R.
There would be no faster way to steal headlines away from the running back who has 10 career touchdowns to show for a McCaskey investment of $13.8 million thus far than to trot Harris or Hester out in front of a Halas Hall podium and sing the praises of a longterm contract.