When the Bears put together their $126 million contract for Jay Cutler, it came with significant guaranteed money for the franchise quarterback. Cutler and the Bears have now adjusted the deal in a bookkeeping move that puts a little more guaranteed money in his pocket while at the same time giving the Bears flexibility to use salary cap space elsewhere.
As first reported by NFL salary cap and analytics expert Brian McIntyre, the Bears moved $5 million from base salary in 2014 into signing bonus, which spreads the amount over the duration of the contract while lowering the drop for 2014. The result is a net increase of $4 million in available cap space in 2014.
How the Bears ultimately use the freed-up cap space will play out over the next couple of months, which will include funding the salaries of drafted rookies. No team has been more active and aggressive in signing free agents through the first two weeks of free agency, with deals for defensive linemen Lamarr Houston, Jeremiah Ratliff and Willie Young all coming with up-front money in addition to salary hits.
The Cutler contract tweak follows the release of wide receiver Earl Bennett in another move to free up cap space.
But the money shifting does not portend another wave of top-end signings. General manager Phil Emery was explicit in stressing the requirement that possible signings mesh with both roster needs and cap realities.