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We have covered it here before but it's worth going over again.

One of the reasons the Bears are in such a good position with the salary cap this season (and in prior years) is because they manage to do a pretty good job of limiting their dead cap space. That's cap space that is eaten up by players no longer on the roster. Make a slew of a bad decisions with draft picks, free agents or both and teams can pile up some dead cap space in a hurry. The trade of Kyle Orton to Denver gave the Bears $700,000 in dead cap space for 2009.

According to the most recent figures, the Bears are carrying $6,535,640 in dead cap space. That might sound like a lot but consider that it is just 4.8 percent of the total pie which is more than $135.9 million. That number will go up. The Bears have 80 players under contract right now and as they work toward a final 53-man roster, players will be released that add money to that but as best as we can tell there aren't any players in jeopardy of losing their job that would add a big number to that figure.

Players with the highest dead space on the roster:

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?

Welcome to our countdown to training camp.

The Bears will report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., in 29 days. The beginning of the 2009 season and the first training camp practice is 30 days away.

We've been away for a little bit--some of the vacation was of the unpaid variety and not by choice--but we're back. We'll cover all the angles here every day leading up to the most anticipated camp we've seen in nine years. Yes, we're saying there is more buzz about camp this summer than two years ago when the Bears were coming off their appearance in Super Bowl XLI. If you can imagine it, we'll probably tackle it right here in the next 30 days, starting with a poll. Go ahead and weigh in on what the most critical issue facing the Bears is heading to camp. We'll assess the options in the poll next week. We'll also visit with a Four Down Territory next week, so fire away with your questions.

Now to the voting station.

Time for a look at some interesting numbers that Jason La Canfora, new to, came up with. He took a look at the real dollar figures in the NFL over the last five seasons. Not the salary cap but committed cash, the actual amount of money teams paid players. We all know teams can spend well above and beyond the cap each season when large bonus payments (spread over multiple seasons) come into play. Right here, La Canfora breaks it down and has the Bears 21st in the league in spending at $495.57 million from 2004 through 2008. That is more than $70 million less than the biggest spender on the list--Jerry Jones.

Here is now the NFC North breaks down:

5. Minnesota $526.87 million

15. Detroit $505.04 million

21. Bears $495.57 million

30. Green Bay $457.16 million

A week after the Bears added Michael Gaines as strong competition to make the 53-man roster we've been able to take a look at the numbers in his one-year contract.

Gaines figures to compete for a job as the third tight end or perhaps as a reserve tight end/fullback. If he stuck in that role as a hybrid fullback/tight end, the Bears might only keep three running backs leaving veteran Adrian Peterson and the younger Garrett Wolfe in a battle for the third spot. That, however, will be analysis for another day.

Gaines, who will be on display Wednesday at the first OTA of the offseason, will have to make the 53-man roster in order to have a shot at the bulk of the money in this contract that is worth a maximum of $1,162,600, not the $1.25 million we previously reported. Our apologies for the bad numbers. Let's break down the real numbers:


A week after Orlando Pace signed his contract, we've been able to take a closer look at the numbers in the deal. Pace left more money on the table in Baltimore to come to the Bears for an opportunity to play left tackle. It could be he wanted to remain in the Midwest as well. He could maintain his home in the St. Louis area and commute easily during this time of year when players are at Halas Hall four days per week for the voluntary offseason workout program. Whatever the reason for choosing the Bears, they got the seven-time Pro Bowl performer at a good price.

Pace, who will turn 34 in November, is expected to step in as the starting left tackle. Players have said he reported for work last week in terrific shape.

You can cross one name off the list of potential right tackles for the Bears this coming season.

John Tait has turned in his retirement papers as an NFL source said his name came across the waiver wire less than an hour ago. The Bears have placed him on the reserve/retired list.

Tait informed the Bears in January that he was seriously contemplating retirement. No move was official at the time. When the club asked him if he wanted an announcement to be made, he said no, proof that he was going to continue to think it over even if he was mostly sure what path he was going to choose. Now, it's over. Tait, a first-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999, walks away from the game after 10 seasons.

Of course, turning in his paperwork doesn't mean a whole lot. Remember, Brett Favre's paperwork was once turned in and we know what that turned into for Green Bay and then the New York Jets.

We've got the numbers for the contract signed by new offensive lineman Frank Omiyale, the Bears' first free-agent acquisition.

The base value of the four-year contract is $11.5 million and with escalators it is believed to max out at $14 million. We don't know the parameters for those escalators and the amounts or what triggers the payouts. We do have a grasp on the rest of the deal. With roughly $31 million in cap room entering free agency, the Bears chose to put the bulk of the money for Omiyale in the first year of the deal. He will be paid $6.3 million this season, or more than half of the total base value of the contract.

That is the kind of payoff that makes it very clear the Bears plan on him being a starter this season, whether the club will say that or not.


In a quiet free agency period for the Bears, longtime NFL coach and front office man Pat Kirwan raised the volume around Halas Hall with his comments Tuesday on Sirius NFL radio.

The sounds you heard were fans screaming in protest.

Kirwan and co-host Tim Ryan had a caller on the line who wanted to discuss the Bears. The caller said he was mostly supportive of general manager Jerry Angelo but was frustrated by the lack of moves this offseason, specifically pointing to wide receiver and safety as issues that were not being addressed. Kirwan, who has known Angelo for more than two decades, came to the defense of Angelo quickly. What it turned into, however, was something completely different. Instead of trying to interpret this for you, and paraphrase what was said or try to tell you what was meant, we're just going to lay out the transcript from the ``Movin' The Chains'' show in Sirius:

"Jerry came to Chicago as a proven entity, all right,'' Kirwan said. "He ran the drafts in Tampa, all the drafts that had all those great players. So he came with credentials. The next thing is he brings the team to a Super Bowl. That's on his resume now in Chicago, with Rex Grossman under center that team got to a Super Bowl. The other thing is, if you're a real Bear fan, you know that this is not exactly the most generous spending team in the history of football. So he's got restrictions and restraints and he's not going to [say], `Hey, I'm trying to sign this guy but my owners won't let me,' You think he's going to say that? No.


As we roll toward the opening of free agency this evening there isn't quite the anticipation there was a year ago when the Bears had a handful of players entering the open market. The action started with the team doing what it could to keep wide receiver Bernard Berrian. When that mission failed, the Bears put the squeeze on linebacker Lance Briggs, getting him to return at their price while some key role players (who were missed last season) departed in special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo and tight end John Gilmore.

There just won't be that kind of drama this weekend, at least not that we see right now peering into our crystal ball. A phone call to Miss Cleo might confirm our hunch. It's important as we move forward to take stock of where the team is right now with the salary cap. We've reviewed the information when it comes to the 2009 salary cap, which was referenced in this story today, and have the cap numbers for projected starters. This provides an idea how the Bears have budgeted and where they're at. It's similar in many ways to how the money was distributed last season.

Jerry Angelo just got an extra $4 million to spend.

That doesn't mean he's going to rush into free agency when it begins in a little more than 27 hours.

Adam Schefter of the NFL Network reported that the salary cap, which was expected to be at $123 million for 2009, has been bumped up to $127 million.

"Because teams didn't spend as much as they were supposed to under the collective bargaining agreement the past three years, teams were notified Wednesday that the salary cap will increase over $4 million to $127 million for this coming year, according to sources with two NFL teams. The collective bargaining agreement calls for cap adjustment down if teams spend over the cap in cash and adjustment up if they don't spend up to the cap."


Looks like things have quieted down a little bit around the league in what is usually a slow period leading up to free agency, which opens in 10 days. It's going to be very interesting to see how the shopping season opens up and we wrote about that last week. Mike Florio of has an interesting take on it here, and he's not alone in thinking this could be a down year for free agency. Perhaps we'll get a feel for the action later this week at the combine. For now, let's jump into another Four Down Territory.

Q: Jeff Garcia has been a winner nearly everywhere he has played. Tampa Bay has decided to go with less than eight quarterbacks this offseason and he's one who will not be back. What are the chances the Bears attempt to sign him?

Eric G., Palatine

A: We're going to say the odds of the Bears pursuing Garcia are only slightly higher than the chances of them going after Kurt Warner, if indeed the two-time MVP makes it to free agency. Because like Warner, Garcia tried to land himself with the Bears before. His agent Steve Baker attempted to place his client at Halas Hall and didn't have success. Same thing goes for Warner, who expressed interest in coming to the Bears on two occasions.

We're running behind again today, but the mail has arrived in time to deliver Four Down Territory. Let's get into it.

Q: It looks to me like Max Starks or Vernon Carey is going to be the Bears' No. 1 free-agent target. Why you ask? Well for starters John St. Clair mentioned in a recent article that the Bears have not contacted his agent yet to start contract negotiations. I doubt if John Tait thinking about retirement is a surprise to them so if you know Tait and his salary are leaving, it's logical to assume the Bears would want to pursue the best possible replacement. St. Clair played a good left tackle last year but Starks and Carey are probably much better right tackles than St. Clair. Both also fit the the mold of the guy I have been wanting them to have that of a road grader run blocker. Replacing Tait with a free agent makes more sense to me than drafting a rookie right tackle and having both your starting tackles with virtually no NFL experience. The Bears have the cap room to sign Starks or Carey the question is will either of them want the Bears and how far are the Bears willing to convince them moneywise this is the place for him to play. I also heard that Ray Willis of the Seahawks is a free agent. Can you tell me if you also believe the Bears will pursue a free agent for right tackle and how do you hear Starks, Carey and Willis rate against each other?

Tom P., Parts Unknown

A: Let's get one thing straight, Jerry Angelo hasn't called yet to share his free agency plan with us.

Second, the Bears are going to have to get two tackles, whether it's through the draft, free agency or both. Right now, Chris Williams and Cody Balogh, who was on the practice squad all last season, are the only tackles under contract. So, if the Bears re-sign St. Clair, a possibility, or go after another veteran in free agency, they still have to find another tackle because you have to have three.

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