The NFL’s salary cap is going up … again.
League sources informed NFL Network insider Mike Garafalo that the cap is on the rise again, moving from $167 million in 2017 to $177.2 million for 2018. It’s a steady bump that marks the fifth straight season in which the cap has jumped by at least $10 million from the previous year. This is very much a win for general managers looking to spend on improvements and players hoping to cash in with a big pay day.
Now that we know what the NFL’s salary cap situation looks like, we can have a better idea of what the Chicago Bears will be working with when free agency opens up. The Bears have $77,532,002 in available cap space, according to Spotrac.com. And only the Cleveland Browns ($108,919,295) and New York Jets ($77,532,002) have more available space. This leaves Bears GM Ryan Pace in a prime position to right the wrongs of past offseasons with some smart and aggressive spending.
As it stands only two teams are currently over the cap: the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles ($9,133,036) and Miami Dolphins ($18,529,645).
Since we know the Dolphins’ cap situation is a delicate one as the team tries to get out of the red by trading wide receiver Jarvis Landry, we have a perfect segue that allows us to share the league’s official franchise tag numbers, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter:
- Quarterback: $23.189 million
- Running back: $11.866 million
- Wide receiver: $15.982 million
- Tight end: $9.846 million
- Offensive line: $14.077 million
- Defensive end: $17.143 million
- Defensive tackle: $13.939 million
- Linebacker: $14.961 million
- Cornerback: $14.975 million
- Safety: $11.287 million
- Kicker/punter: $4.939 million
With the franchise tender being $15.982 million and Miami being $18.5 million over the cap, it seems like that team will need to move quickly when it comes to making a decision on Landry’s future. If Landry has signed the franchise tag tender as believed, then the Dolphins are truly in a bind. That would leave the Bears in a great negotiating position if they view Landry as a top offseason target. Just saying.
The safety tag number could be of interest to the Bears as they might be keeping an eye on what happens with the Los Angeles Rams, who could use the tag to keep Lamarcus Joyner. That move would leave wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the brink of free agency. The Bears have popped up as a team that could be interested in bringing in Watkins to upgrade their group of receivers. For what it’s worth, neither Watkins (nor Jaguars wideout Allen Robonson) is expected to receive the franchise tag.
Albert Breer of SI.com’s The MMQB has details regarding the transition tag, which the team could ultimately use on cornerback Kyle Fuller since the franchise tag is not expected to be an option:
- Quarterback: $20.922 million
- Running back: $9.63 million
- Wide receiver: $13.924 million
- Tight end: $8.428 million
- Offensive line: $12.525 million
- Defensive end: $14.2 million
- Defensive tackle: $11.407 million
- Linebacker: $12.81 million
- Cornerback: $12.971 million
- Safety: $9.536 million
- Kicker/punter: $4.493 million
If anything, the transition tag should provide a better idea of what Fuller’s next contract might look like after he explores the market to figure out his value. For example, a contract with an average value of $13 million would put him in the neighborhood of the kind of deals A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore signed in 2017 with the Jaguars and Patriots, respectively. If the average for Fuller’s next deal was closer to the franchise tag number, it could put him among the three highest-paid corners in the game. Sounds like quite the price for a player with just one stellar season under his belt.
Another set of numbers that will certainly be an interest to the Bears are the restricted free agent tender numbers, via Joel Corry of CBS Sports:
- First-round: $4.149 million
- Second-round: $2.914 million
- Low-round: $1.907 million
Wide receivers Cameron Meredith and cornerback Bryce Callahan figure to be given tendered RFA deals, while receiver Josh Bellamy is also a candidate to receive a tender offer.