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The Chicago Bears have an important offseason ahead where the current top priorities are finding the next general manager and head coach before the Bears can really delve into their offseason work.
After the salary cap decreased from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million in 2021 due to the COVID-19 impact, the cap is expected to rise to around $208.2 million in 2022.
Where things currently stand, the Bears are expected to have roughly $44 million in camp space, which is the 11th most in the NFL. But that’s also with just 26 players under contract for the 2022 season.
But there are some players with some pretty substantial cap hits heading into 2022, some of whom could be potential cap casualties.
Here’s a look at the 10 biggest cap hits on the books for the Bears in 2022:
Salary cap numbers courtesy of Spotrac
OLB Khalil Mack - $30.15 million
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Khalil Mack will have the largest cap hit at $30.15 million, which accounts for 14 percent of the Bears’ salary cap in 2022. Mack played in just seven games this season after having season-ending foot surgery. But he was having a solid year before the injury sidelined him for the season.
Potential cap casualty? Don’t count on it. Mack would carry a dead cap hit of $24 million.
OLB Robert Quinn - $17.14 million
AP Photo/Duane Burleson
Robert Quinn has the second-highest salary cap hit in 2022 — with $17.14 million — but there’s a significant drop off between Mack and Quinn’s cap hits. Quinn broke Richard Dent’s single-season sack record with the Bears, tallying 18.5 total sacks in 16 games.
Potential cap casualty? Not likely. Not only is Quinn coming off a Pro Bowl season, but his dead cap hit of $12.71 million makes it unlikely.
S Eddie Jackson - $15.09 million
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Eddie Jackson carries the third-largest cap hit with $15.09 million in the second year of his four-year extension that made him the highest-paid safety in the NFL at the time. Unfortunately, Jackson’s play hasn’t mirrored his contract, and he could certainly be cut or traded down the line.
Potential cap casualty? Probably not. Jackson’s dead cap hit of $18.56 million is the second-largest on the team behind Mack. But post-June 1, that drops to $9 million in dead money. Still not ideal.
OL Cody Whitehair - $12.3 million
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Cody Whitehair will have the fourth-biggest cap hit in 2022 at $12.3 million, which is a significant increase from his $5.2 cap hit in 2021. It doesn’t help that Whitehair is coming off the worst season of his career. So he’s going to need to find a way to right the ship in 2022.
Potential cap casualty? It doesn’t seem likely as Whitehair carries a $12.51 million dead cap hit. But his cap hit would only by $4.2 million post-June 1, so there’s a possible out.
NT Eddie Goldman - $11.8 million
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Eddie Goldman is entering the third year of his four-year contract extension, where he carries the fifth-highest cap hit of $11.8 million in 2022. It doesn’t help that Goldman is coming off his worst year with the Bears.
Potential cap casualty? Absolutely. While Goldman’s dead cap hit is $5.2 million, that drops to roughly $3 million post-June 1.
QB Nick Foles - $10.7 million
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Quarterback Nick Foles served as the third-string quarterback last season, mostly because his contract made it difficult to part ways with him. Foles carries a $10.7 million cap hit in 2022, which is more than starter Justin Fields.
Potential cap casualty? Not likely. Foles’ contract is the reason he remained on the roster last year and why he’ll likely serve as Fields’ backup in 2022. Foles’ dead cap hit is $7.67 million, where the only out would be if they could find a trade partner.
ILB Roquan Smith - $9.74 million
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Roquan Smith carries the seventh-highest cap hit on the roster at $9.74 million, but he’s been worth the money. Smith has been one of the NFL’s best linebackers and a valuable leader on this defense.
Potential cap casualty? Nope. Not happening. Smith is actually poised for a contract extension, and is one of the reasons why a new GM and head coach would love Chicago.
RB Tarik Cohen - $5.75 million
AP Photo/Jose Juarez
Tarik Cohen signed a three-year contract extension last year, but he’s only played in three games over the last two seasons due to his torn ACL. With David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert holding down the fort at running back, Cohen’s current $5.75 million cap hit isn’t ideal.
Potential cap casualty? It’s definitely possible. Cohen would make the most sense as a post-June 1 cut, where his dead cap hit would be $1.75 million and would save the Bears $4 million in cap space.
ILB Danny Trevathan - $5.72 million
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Danny Trevathan carries the Bears’ ninth-highest cap hit with $5.72 million in 2022. Which if he was the Trevathan of old wouldn’t be a problem. But he’s injury prone and is on the wrong side of 30.
Potential cap casualty? It’s definitely a possibility. If the new Bears GM were to part ways him, he’d likely be a post-June 1 cut. He’d have a dead cap hit of $2.4 million and would save Chicago $3.5 million in cap space.
QB Justin Fields - $4.29 million
AP Photo/Aaron Gash
Justin Fields rounds out the top 10 biggest cap hits entering the 2022 offseason at $4.29 million, which is a freaking bargain. That’s the beauty of having a quarterback on a rookie deal.
Potential cap casualty? Not happening. The Bears have a quarterback on a rookie contract, which is a very good position for the new GM to be in.
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Quarterback Andy Dalton ($5 million) and tight end Jimmy Graham ($4.66 million) technically have bigger cap hits than Fields, after contract restructures last year. And while they’re not on the 2022 roster, the Bears still have to pay for them.