There is more than a $20 bill in Jerry Angelo's pocket.
The general manager likes to joke that he doesn't have money burning a hole in his wallet, and often references having an Andy Jackson in his pocket. That may be the case but the Bears have much more than that remaining in room under the 2009 salary cap.
A check on Wednesday afternoon of the most recent figures indicates that the Bears remain $17.67 million under their adjusted salary-cap figure of $135.9 million. That means the organization has committed 86.99 percent of its cap to this point and there is plenty of room left over for spending.
More and more it seems unlikely Plaxico Burress will be sitting down to the table to enjoy a piece of that (salary cap) pie. During our company-imposed vacation, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported that commissioner Roger Goodell could come down hard on Burress and make it difficult for him to be on the field in 2009. Burress has reportedly turned down plea deals that would have landed him in the poky for a short amount of time, so short that he could have already done his time and be out on the street. Now, the case is trudging along through the New York court system. Goodell wants accountability from players and when Burress, who had a hole in his leg from his unlicensed hand gun, does all he can to avoid that accountability, it might not bode well for him when it comes time to hear from the league.
Burress' agent Drew Rosenhaus is doing all he can to drum up business, reporting recently that five teams are now interested in Burress. Well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have come out and said you can count them out. There was a report out of New York that the Jets may have cooled on the idea. If the Bears are not in play, Rosenhaus' list just got trimmed in half, at least.
So, let's take a look at where that $17.67 million could go. Remember, general manager Jerry Angelo and president Ted Phillips said that although streamlining was going on in the organization, the football budget would not be affected by the economy.
1. Jay Cutler. We wrote here previously that the Bears will look to do something long term with Cutler, perhaps during the season. They'll need to make that move in October probably in order to take advantage of the cap room and apply money to this season. It makes perfect sense. Yes, Cutler remains under contract for three more seasons. But he has a $12 million roster bonus in 2012 that the team would probably like to avoid. Forget the idea of waiting to see how Cutler performs. They got him for the long haul and they're going to invest in him for the long haul. But quarterback deals take time to put together. Why not start during training camp?
Let's face it, after Cutler there isn't an obvious candidate that jumps out and screams, "Show me the money!" Not from our vantage point, any way. But let's look at some candidates:
Anthony Adams. The defensive tackle is entering the third year of a modest four-year contract. If Adams emerges from training camp as the starting nose tackle, perhaps he merits a modest extension at some point. He's proven to be valuable every time he's been called on, which makes it a wonder why the coaching staff has gone away from him on occasion.
Mark Anderson. The defensive end is entering the final year of his rookie contract. If a new CBA can be hammered out he will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Anderson could either be a hot commodity by the end of the season or just another guy who is another season removed from his breakout 2006 rookie year. It might be prudent for the Bears to wait until season's end to fully evaluate him and not pay him by midseason to apply money to the 2009 salary cap.
Adewale Ogunleye. He turns 32 next month which means he'll be 33 when the 2010 season begins. We're not ready to say whether or not the Bears should re-invest in Ogunleye, but if he performs well and is willing to come back at the right price, it would take some of the gamble out of trying to replace him with an unknown. We'll see how rookies Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton fare this season. Gilbert will be worked as a tackle but might eventually find himself at left end.
Kevin Payne. If Payne had remained at strong safety for the entire season, he just might have led the Bears in tackles. He's expected to be back in that role this season. If he can improve in his second season as a starter, perhaps he's worth looking at in terms of an extension. But, again, that's a decision best made at this time next year, not in the middle of the season.
Brandon Rideau. If the Bears buck the trend at wide receiver and find a hidden talent here, securing him with a modest deal would make a lot of sense. There's a big difference between running with the first team on occasion in OTA's and running with the ones in preseason. Let's see how this pans out.
Maybe we missed someone--it wouldn't be the first time--but no one clearly jumps out at us other than Cutler. A deal for him is going to take up a lot of money. That's why having more than $17 million in cap space isn't a bad thing right now.