The Bears will have a bit more money to hand out this offseason, but so will everyone else.
The NFL’s salary cap rose to $133 million for 2014, the NFLPA announced Friday. It’s the highest figure in history and $10 million more than 2013. The cap is calculated each year from a percentage of projected league revenue.
The big winners will be free agents.
The Bears calculated an increase when budgeting for next season, though the $10 million hike exceeded leaguewide expectations. In December, teams were told the projection would be around $126 million.
The team already has re-signed many of its top free agents, including quarterback Jay Cutler, guard Matt Slauson, cornerback Tim Jennings and center Roberto Garza.
Defensive back Kelvin Hayden became the Bears’ eighth offseason signing and third in 24 hours when he agreed to a one-year deal.
The Chicago native and Illinois alum will compete with Isaiah Frey for the nickel-back spot and provide depth at cornerback.
Hayden, who will turn 31 on July 23, was penciled in as the Bears’ starting nickel back before tearing his left hamstring in August. In 2012, he tied for the NFL lead with four fumble recoveries.
As teams throughout the league prepare for the start of free agency March 11, the Bears lost one pie-in-the-sky target.
Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, considered the best free-agent pass rusher, if not the best defensive player overall, was given the franchise tag. If he doesn’t negotiate a long-term deal, he’ll make $13.1 million next season.