Many of us find it easy to play general manager from a distance with any team. Some of us just add and drop players in fantasy leagues based on the numbers players do or don't put up.
For those with a more serious, realistic take at what each team's up against and how they must make their decisions, all they have to do is look up their salary cap situation. For Bears and other NFL fans, two of the easiest tools available (and there are others) are the NFLPA website, which updates all 32 teams' salary cap situations four times daily, and Spotrac.com.
After Thursday's signings of Willie Young and Domenik Hixon, Phil Emery had just under $2.5 million in cap space left. In the off-season, only the top 51 salaried players count against the $133 million limit, and the NFLPA site lists the Bears with 56 under contract. Obviously, most teams bring 85 to 90 players to camp, including their draft class. Come September, that final roster and the practice squad must fit under the cap. The lowest salaried players among the 51 on Spotrac's Bears list now is the veteran league minimum $420,000 (safe to say Hixon, M.D. Jennings and Jordan Palmer, whom Spotrac did not have salary & cap hit numbers on as of Friday afternoon, are above that).
Dead money is counted against the salary cap year-round, and the Bears have $12 million of their space eaten up by players no longer here — primarily Julius Peppers, but Michael Bush, Gabe Carimi and Adam Podlesh take up their share, too.
That's just something to think about in how Emery has to go about his shrewd shopping. It doesn't simply come down to "why don't they go out and sign this guy...and that guy?" He's in the process of watching prices come down for players still out there that he might have his eye on, and start getting impatient as time passes. And it's a process that could very well go into June.
Every Charles Tillman-, Corey Wootton- and Henry Melton-related decision is part of the prices he and Jerry Angelo have paid in recent years, including that of Jay Cutler's cap hit, which can always be restructured. But Emery's in a situation now where, with the numbers we know, he would likely need to subtract a player from that top 51 in order to squeeze a new one in. That's what he referred to in the "resources left" when asked about Melton yesterday as he left Minnesota, and headed towards Seattle and Dallas this weekend. Each of you can go to those websites, or others, and do your own math on how he arranges, adds, and subtracts to his roster puzzle.
His team still needs another edge rusher, a defensive tackle, a cornerback, quality safety, and second- or third-string quarterback. If he hits it right, the draft might fill two or three of those needs. The rest will have to come as prices for veterans on the market comes down.