Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Bears are in a bit of a rough spot right now when it comes to the subject of free agency.
In a nutshell, the Bears were around $12 million under the projected salary cap figures for this upcoming season.
Seems pretty good, right?
After the team decided to place the franchise tag on Pro Bowl DT Henry Melton, however, that number quickly went from $12 million to about $3.5 million, the amount that it would take to sign the 2013 rookie class for Chicago.
Basically, if the team stays where they're at, after the draft they'll have no money left to sign their own free agents, let alone try and get another player in free agency.
There is hope, though, that the Bears can get new deals done for players who are expected to get a lot of money this season, and that could give the team a lot more room to move under the cap.
For example, the team placed a franchise tag on RB Matt Forte last season. That changed, however, when the team was able to get a long-term deal done, pushing his base salary down and moving money into a roster bonus. That possibility is still there for Henry Melton, as a long-term deal doesn't have to get done until July 15th.
Another move could be tacking "dummy years" onto the contracts of existing players, making most of their base salaries into signing bonuses.
An example of this would be DE Julius Peppers. He has the biggest cap hit for the Bears right now, with just under $16.4 million due to him next season. By adding two years to his contract, the team could take $10 million of what he is expected to make this season and $10 million of what he is supposed to make next season and turn it into a $20 million signing bonus.
His salary for this year would go from $12.9 million to $2.9 million, and he would still get all of his money. This would allow the Bears more room to make moves in free agency right now.
A complete list of cap hits for the Chicago Bears in the 2013 season can be found right here.
No matter how they handle it, the team needs to do something about their salary cap numbers. If they don't, they could lose a lot of talent from their roster to free agency and only be able to sign the draft picks they get this year, without getting one single player through free agency.