The Bears have added to their salary cap reserve again, following a restructuring of Julius Peppers’ contract on Monday with a pay cut for No. 3 receiver Earl Bennett that saves the team $1 million this year.
Bennett’s base of $2.25 million for 2013 was trimmed to $1.25 million, with the possibility of Bennett earning back the income base on catches this season. The change in Bennett’s contract was first reported by Brian McIntyre of Yahoo Sports.
Bennett caught just 29 passes in an injury speckled 2012 so any incentive based on a number higher than that figure will not count against this year’s cap as “likely to be earned.”
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The Bears gave Bennett a four-year extension late in the 2011 season. The deal totaled $16.2 million and included $6 million in bonuses, with salaries of $2.35 million for 2014 and $2 million in 2015.
An underlying question is what the Bears were prepared to do in the event Bennett was unwilling to take the pay cut. One top team official in the past said that you do not go to a player with a pay cut unless you’re prepared to cut him if he refuses.
The Bears already realized cap savings this preseason with the Peppers reduction of $2 million this season plus restructuring and then releasing tackle J’Marcus Webb.
For Bennett to stay at his current pay grade for next season, he is likely to need to reach incentive targets and possibly more this season. The salary cap is not expected to rise significantly for several more years and if $2.25 million was deemed too pricey for a receiver coming off a 29-catch year, the Bears will not be expected to pay $2.35 million next year.