Why did the Bears Cap Space go from $118M to $93M?

The NFL told the franchises that the record-breaking 2023 salary cap amount per team will be $224.8 million. This is an increase of $42.3 from 2021 and over $16 million over 2022. But for whatever reason, the expected cap figure for the Chicago Bears appeared to decline from above $100 million earlier this month to under $100 million at this point.

How did that come about? No new contracts have been signed, nor has free agency arrived.

Brad Spielberger, a salary cap analyst with Pro Football Focus, provided clarification. The first of them is Riley Reiff, an offensive lineman, receiving $4.5 million in incentives, as described by Spielberger. He was due $4.5 million if he played for 10% of the team’s offensive snaps and if any of the six offensive categories saw improvement.

The other is six 2020 draft picks who qualify for the Proven Performance Escalator and receive $1 million increases apiece. To put it simply, athletes that participated in a particular number of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps throughout their first three seasons are awarded Proven Performance Escalators.

PPE comes in three different levels, as explained by Over The Cap:
In order to qualify for the Level One PPE, a player must either play in a specific proportion of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or must average that proportion of snaps across his first three seasons. The average is 60% for picks in the second round, while it is 35% for picks in the third through eighth rounds (as it was in the 2011 CBA).

A player qualifies for the Level Two PPE if he plays in at least 55% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps over the course of his first three seasons.

If a player is chosen for a Pro Bowl in any of his first three seasons on the initial ballot (and not as an alternate), they will receive the Level Three PPE.

The more lucrative Level Two players are Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Darnell Mooney. Level One people include Trevis Gipson and Kindle Vildor.

Based on the restricted free agent tenders for that season, those six players will therefore receive a wage raise. Equanimeous St. Brown was also re-signed by the Bears for a $1.25 million, one-year contract.

The Bears also made eight deals with future players and reserves.

It’s not all bad news, though, as Chicago still has a large margin of expected cap space over the next NFL team. According to Pro Football Focus, that sum is $35.4 million. These figures will alter during the offseason as teams can restructure contracts to modify salary space and players will be released to free up more. The Bears’ salary cap forecasts have decreased as a result, though.

But, the Bears have the first overall pick in the draft.
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