NFL free agency is now only a week away, with negotiations beginning Monday, March 16, and teams and free agents allowed to begin signing new deals on Wednesday, March 18.
The Bears currently have approximately $24 million in salary cap space for the 2020 season prior to the ratification of a new CBA that seems likely.
The cap will increase immediately but since a 17th regular season game wouldn’t happen until at least 2021, a $5-7 million increase this season seems likely to be in the ballpark.
The second-, third- and fourth-most expensive 2020 cap commitments the Bears have right now relative to the cap are Allen Robinson’s ($15 million), Leonard Floyd’s ($13,322,000) and Akiem Hicks’ ($11,800,000).
With Robinson’s contract expiring following the ’20 season, and Hicks’ deal up after 2021, it makes perfect sense to extend arguably the second- and third-most important players on the team after Khalil Mack and fairly easily save another $10 million or so in cap space.
With then approximately $40 million in cap space, Ryan Pace and Co. would have plenty of room to maneuver and address all their roster holes and still pursue upgrades elsewhere.
So, clearly the Bears can afford to keep Floyd at $13-plus million should they want to, but do they and should they?
There is currently no dead money on Floyd’s contract, meaning his release would immediately add another $13.2 million in cap space. But it would also add a fourth position where the Bears would need at least one more starter, and there is no one currently behind Floyd on the depth chart we can project for that spot.
If Floyd is on the roster when free agency begins, the $13.2 million then becomes fully guaranteed and while they have their starting outside linebacker duo with him and Mack, they would clearly be overpaying for Floyd based on his production his first four seasons.
Should they keep Floyd past Mar. 18, there would be nothing stopping the Bears from extending his contract and creating even more cap space this year while keeping him, but they would then find themselves guaranteeing Floyd even more than the $13.2 million he’s on the books for now — why else would Floyd agree to an extension? — in spite of obvious concerns about his lack of pass rush.
Through his first four seasons, Floyd has started 54 games, totaling 154 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 18 ½ sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 3 fumbles recovered.
Durability concerns in his first two seasons should be put to rest by his 32 starts the past two seasons, including playing the first half of 2018 with a broken hand.
Would you rather have Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Dee Ford or Bud Dupree?
Through his first four seasons, Clowney notched 158 tackles, 20 sacks and 3 forced fumbles while playing just 41 games — and all 16 only in his fourth year — but he did have 48 tackles for loss.
Ingram managed 45 games, 143 tackles, 16 ½ sacks, 7 forced fumbles and 24 tackles for loss.
Ford notched 51 games, 82 tackles, 17 ½ sacks, 23 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles, and Dupree had 54 games, 132 tackles, 20 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles.
Clowney and Dupree will join the ranks of the highest-paid pass rushers in the league in free agency this spring, whereas Ford got an $85 million deal last year and Ingram $64 million in 2017.
Floyd will probably never be the player Clowney is, but his traits are equal to or more impressive than Ford’s, Ingram’s and Dupree’s, and he is a more complete player right now than any of theother four, possibly except Dupree.
No, Floyd has done nothing to earn a $13 million season yet.
But with this many examples of what has happened to some of the best edge rushers in the game today in their contract years, not finding out how much Floyd still has in the tank could prove to be a lot more expensive.
The Bears need to find a way to give Floyd at least one more season.