Monday, July 18, 2011 Posted:
The Bears looked to be very interested in Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins prior to the offseason, but things have since changed. (USPresswire)
12:10 p.m. By John Mullin CSNChicago.com Bears Insider
Coming back down from a couple weeks in the Colorado mountains to some good news….
The NFL and its players are indeed getting close to an agreement, finally working out the biggest issue of how to divide the $9.3 billion revenue pie. As long as that was unsettled, the other matters were petty cash (pun intended) by comparison. But the loss of some or all of the preseason and its estimated $800-900 million was looming as of last Friday, and presto – deal (probably).
Albert Breer at NFL.com has done an excellent job going through some of the proposed details, including the salary cap projecting to about $123 million and teams being required to pay out, in cash, at least 90 percent of the cap minimum. And Chris Mortensen over at ESPN.com laid out some of the remaining issues, including limitations to the franchise tag, changes in where workers comp claims can be filed by players, and restoring $320 million in unpaid benefits from the uncapped year.
But the biggest hurdle appears to have been cleared, that of both sides believing that a deal is doable, something that hasn’t always been the case in some constituencies on both sides. Mediation with U.S. Magistrate Arthur Boylan was slated to resume on Tuesday but was bumped forward to Monday – always a good sign when people actually want to get back to negotiating tables.
What this all means is that training camp is likely to begin for the Bears and the rest of the NFL perhaps a week late, around the end of this month. There will be a speed-dial version of free agency and a grab-bag signing period for undrafted free agents in addition to the standard ticking-off of draft choices signing, something that Bears negotiator Cliff Stein manages as well as anyone in the NFL. Courses of action
What this means for the Bears is finally the chance to execute an off-season program that has been in place since late in the 2010 season. What GM Jerry Angelo and his staff did beginning back then was nothing short of formulating specific business plans for multiple eventualities with the labor situation.
For instance, if there was an immediate resolution, activate Plan A. If there is a solution with free agency in its truncated form of last offseason, go to Plan B. If the offseason is stalled and there is an abbreviated action period, as has come to pass, then Angelo implements Plan D or whatever. And for all the cliché’d and misguided criticism of the Bears as cheap or inert, they have in fact been very decisive and quick-to-act under Angelo. Most of their precipitous moves in the modern NFL market (Julius Peppers, Muhsin Muhammed, others) were planned in advance and triggered virtually within minutes of free agency commencing.
Put another way, the Bears are roster- and staff-wise ahead of the league curve, whatever exact shape that takes in the course of this week.
What happens next
Not much about the state of the Bears has gone uncovered over the past few months, so just a few quick dust-offs: Their own
The plan has long been to re-sign center Olin Kreutz
and nose tackle Anthony Adams
. With an abbreviated market for shopping, players won’t have as many opportunities or as much time for finding new teams. Best guess is that special-teamer Corey Graham
may have the best chance of signing elsewhere. Pisa Tinoisamoa
is a favorite of coach Lovie Smith, a producer and is a two-down player the Bears could bring back on a third one-year deal. New old guys
Green Bay d-lineman Cullen Jenkins
was very high on the Bears’ target list before the lockout. And before the draft. Now the Bears have Henry Melton
and rookie Stephen Paea
as starter-grade three-techniques, and the need for Jenkins to replace Tommie Harris is all but gone.
With Earl Bennett
, Devin Hester
and Johnny Knox
returning, and Rashied Davis
an affordable No. 4 with special-teams value, the Bears are thin at wideout but not desperate. Their plan was to add a veteran and the likes of Braylon Edwards of the Jets and Roy Williams in Dallas remain on the we’ll-see list.
New new guys
Paea, tackle Gabe Carimi
and the rest of the draft choices will be under contract by or just about by the start of camp. Look for J’Marcus Webb to open camp at left tackle and Carimi at right, for the simple reason that Carimi can play right and Webb is substantially ahead of Carimi by virtue of the rookie season.
The Bears were an NFC-Championship finalist and are not in the mode of developing Carimi or anyone else unless it’s the best thing for winning right now.
NFL owners meet in Atlanta this Thursday. The hope all around is that they will have something substantive to vote on, that the players will recertify their union and ratify the agreement as well, and there will be training camp by the end of the month. John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information