Today marks the official beginning of the 2023 NFL offseason. The Bears are on the clock with the number one pick in the Draft, and most experts agree a trade back is in order. With the most salary cap space in the league, fans are eagerly anticipating a few big splashes for Chicago next month when the bidding wars begin. While big names like Da’Ron Payne and Orlando Brown Jr. are on the table, don’t be surprised if General Manager Ryan Poles keeps a little in the bank for 2024.
The NFL is about championship windows. Between the salary cap, player ages and strength of divisions, each team has a timeframe to realistically compete for a title. In a rebuilding cycle, the Chicago Bears have a lot of holes to fill. Additionally, while the NFC is the weaker of the two conferences, teams like Minnesota and Green Bay are nearing salary cap Armageddon. It may be worth waiting them out and waltzing through the post-season virtually unscathed later on.
We’ve written much in the past about the Packers’ “kick the can down the road” approach to finances. Green Bay enters the 2023 offseason with a $21.8 million salary cap deficit. Wow. After 39-year-old Rodgers, 31-year-old David Bakhtiari has the second-highest salary on the team taking a cap hit of $29 million. One of Rodgers’ favorite targets, wide receiver Allen Lazard, will enter free agency with a market value of $11 million per year.
The Rodgers Rate only goes up. His contract extends through 2026 with a lot of weight on the backend. If he plays three more seasons, the team faces $76.8 million in dead money on his contract alone.
The Vikings also stare down the barrel of a rough near future. Already in a salary cap deficit, big bills come due in 2024 when Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Michael Pierce, Jordan Hicks, T.J. Hockenson, Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, Chris Reed, Cameron Dantzler and 14 more players will need new contracts. Smells like a rebuild.
Chicago will also have its fair share of players seeking new deals in 2024. Most notably, Poles should want to keep Cole Kmet, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Jaylon Johnson.
Rather than drain the coffers this spring and summer, the Bears must remain focused on the ideal championship window. With a beleaguered division and conference starting in 2024, Poles can pick off top talent from around the league and resign existing stars to longer deals, creating four to five years of winning seasons and multiple Super Bowls.