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Breaking Down the Bears 2009 Salary Cap

ESPN’s Insider section just did a full-scale blowout about the salary cap for each and every team around the league. Here’s what they had to say on the Bears:

2009 salary cap: $135,634,883
Player with highest cap number: LB Brian Urlacher ($10,185,511; 7.5 percent of cap)
Player no longer with club who has highest cap number: RB Cedric Benson ($2,509,000; 1.9 percent of cap; 14th-highest on club)
Player who has to live up to cap number: WR/KR Devin Hester ($6,885,833; 5.1 percent of cap; third-highest on club)

One could argue that the offseason signing of tackle Orlando Pace ($5,333,333 cap number in 2009; sixth-highest on the club) makes him the player who most needs to live up to his salary. In the past three seasons, the soon-to-be-34-year-old left tackle has missed 26 games while playing in only 22. However, if Pace’s challenge is to stay healthy, Hester’s challenge is to develop into the No. 1 wide receiver his cap number suggests he can become.

There is no doubting that, with the ball in his hands, Hester is one of the most electrifying players in all of football, but on special teams, the opponent can manage Hester’s touches by kicking away from him. To fully maximize his game-breaking capacity, Hester must improve upon his 2008 wide receiver performance. Last year, he ranked 64th among wide receivers in Football Outsiders’ advanced DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement) stats. This year, with Jay Cutler at quarterback, Hester has to prove that rating had more to do with the players throwing him the ball and less to do with his ability to combine his speed with the technique required to be a top wideout.

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