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Will Bears Have Enough Salary Cap Room To Keep Matt Forte?

Flush with salary cap room after the lockout, the Chicago Bears biggest free agent acquisition in 2011 was punter Adam Podlesh as they worked towards a long-term contract with running back Matt Forte. No deal between Forte and Bears materialized, and in late October, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported that they Bears had over $18 million in salary cap space remaining that was likely to be used on contract extensions players other than Forte.

About half ($9.1 million) of that $18 million-plus in cap space went towards extensions for wide receiver Earl Bennett and offensive linemen Roberto Garza and Edwin Williams.

Less than a week after Biggs’ report, the Bears signed center Roberto Garza to a two-year, $6.25 million extension. That extension increased Garza’s 2011 base salary from a rate of $2.175 million to $7.086 million for the final nine weeks of the season, a net increase of $2.6 million in both base salary and cap dollars. That still left the Bears with over $15 million of cap space for 2011, as ProFootballTalk.com reported in the middle of November.

The following month, the Bears extended the contracts of Bennett and Williams.

However, according to a league source, the Bears included language that gives Bennett and Williams the right to terminate their contracts in any year

With the franchise tag for Forte projected to be worth nearly $8 million in 2012, it’s fair to question why the Bears spent so much of that cap room on a No. 2 receiver and a turning 33-year-old center and reserve guard on an offensive line that ranked 24th in Adjusted Line Yards and 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate in 2011. Even without that $9.1 million, though, the Bears can carry over $8 million in cap space into 2012 and will have around $25-30 million in total cap space to franchise or re-sign Forte, cornerbacks Zack Bowman and Corey Graham, and defensive lineman Israel Idonije.
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