4 Bears who could be salary cap casualties in 2023

The Chicago Bears are just beginning what could be a franchise-altering offseason, where general manager Ryan Poles will be looking to retool the league’s worst roster in 2022. And he has the resources to get it done.

When looking at the Bears’ roster, there aren’t a lot of expensive contracts on the books. Safety Eddie Jackson has the biggest cap hit at $17.09 million, but he doesn’t feel like someone who could be on the chopping block. He’s coming off a bounce back season, where he led the Bears with four interceptions before missing the final six games due to injury.

Not to mention, Chicago is in an excellent place in terms of cap space, where they’re expected to have $98.6 million, according to Spotrac. That’s the most in the NFL (by a wide margin).

But there are some veterans who could be cap casualties heading into the offseason, especially if Poles can find upgrades at their respective positions while saving some money along the way.

Here are some cut candidates for the Bears this offseason:

OL Cody Whitehair

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Years remaining on contract: 2

2023 cap hit if kept: $14.1 million

2023 dead money if cut: $8.3 million (pre-June 1); $4.2 million (post-June 1)

2023 cap savings if cut: $5.8 million (pre-June 1); $9.9 million (post-June 1)

Whitehair has the second-largest cap hit on the team at $14.1 million. And, considering Whitehair is coming off another underwhelming season, you have to wonder if Poles decides to move on and bring in an upgrade at the left guard position. No one’s guaranteed a starting job along the offensive line at this point, and the expectation is Poles will look to free agency and the NFL draft for upgrades both at the tackle positions and along the interior. At this point, Teven Jenkins and Braxton Jones feel like the only safe bets to start. If the Bears designate Whitehair as a post-June 1 cut, it would free up $9.9 million that could be allocated to address other positions along the line, including a replacement at left guard.

Prediction: Whitehair gets cut

DE Al-Quadin Muhammad

AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Years remaining on contract: 1

2023 cap hit if kept: $4.5 million

2023 dead money if cut: $500,000

2023 cap savings if cut: $4 million

Chicago brought in Muhammad to help shore up a pass rush that traded Khalil Mack and eventually Robert Quinn. Muhammad was one of Matt Eberflus’ guys from the Colts, but he struggled immensely and contributed to arguably the worst defensive line in the league. Muhammad notched just one — yes, one — sack in 16 games. At this point, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson are the only safe bets to return at defensive end. Sure, the Bears could consider keeping Muhammad on as a rotational piece. But you figure they could use that $4 million in a much better way.

Prediction: Muhammad gets cut

OL Lucas Patrick

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Years remaining on contract: 1

2023 cap hit if kept: $5.4 million

2023 dead money if cut: $1.5 million

2023 cap savings if cut: $3.9 million

Patrick was one of the biggest duds of Poles’ first free agent class. He was brought in to shore up the center position (and get Sam Mustipher out of the lineup). But injuries derailed his season, where he played just seven games. Patrick suffered a broken thumb in the first week of training camp that forced him to move to right guard to start the regular season (and Mustipher back at center). Then, when Patrick finally made his debut at center in Week 7, he suffered a season-ending toe injury that sidelined him for the duration of the 2022 season. The Bears could save $3.9 million to allocate to other positions of need. But it also wouldn’t be a surprise for Patrick to get a chance to battle for the starting center job heading into 2023. And if he doesn’t win, Patrick would be a solid reserve.

Prediction: Patrick stays

DT Justin Jones

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Years remaining on contract: 1

2023 cap hit if kept: $7.4 million

2023 dead money if cut: $2.5 million

2023 cap savings if cut: $4.9 million

Jones is the only player worth retaining on arguably the league’s worst defensive line. While he was brought in as the backup plan when the Larry Ogunjobi signing fell through, Jones brought consistency as the 3-technique. Jones led the Bears in tackles for loss and was second in QB hits. Still, Chicago will look to upgrade the most important position in Eberflus’ defense. There are options both in free agency and the NFL draft, which could force Jones out of a starting role. The Bears could save $4.9 million in cap space if they cut Jones. But he’s one of the better free agents that earned another year. While they’ll look to find a star at 3-tech this offseason, you have to figure Jones will still play a key role on next year’s defensive line.

Prediction: Jones stays

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Story originally appeared on Bears Wire