With little money and a glaring need at the most important position in sports, the Bears will wade into free agency, which general manager Ryan Pace two years ago called ‘‘treacherous waters,’’ next week.
Here’s a primer on what to expect:
The NFL has a busy week ahead. Here are the key deadlines looming:
10:59 p.m. Saturday — Deadline for players to vote on new collective-bargaining agreement. A simple majority would ensure labor peace for the next 11 seasons.
10:59 a.m. Monday — Franchise tags are due. The Bears won’t issue one.
11 a.m. Monday — Start of legal tampering period, during which teams can negotiate with the agents of soon-to-be unrestricted free agents.
3 p.m. Wednesday — Start of the league season and of free agency. Teams can make deals official.
Not counting the Danny Trevathan signing, the Bears have $24.5 million in salary-cap space for 2020, according to Spotrac.com — well below the league average of $47.2 million. The Bears’ cap space will rise if the NFL Players Association approves a new CBA, but so will the space of every other team.
Ranking the Bears’ needs
1. Quarterback: The Bears publicly claim they’re committed to Mitch Trubisky, but they would upgrade if they could. Odds are they won’t be able to, however, and instead will bring in a backup with extensive starting experience to replace Chase Daniel and push Trubisky.
2. Tight end: General Ryan Pace said it’s no secret the team will look to add significant help at the position, be it in free agency, a trade or the draft. They hope Trey Burton will be healthy for the first time since December 2018, but they certainly can’t count on it. It’s the most important position in coach Matt Nagy’s offense, other than the quarterback.
3. Cornerback: The Bears created a hole when they made starter Prince Amukamara a cap casualty — and they don’t appear to have a ready-made replacement on their roster.
4. Offensive line: With three veterans and another starter two years removed from being drafted in Round 2, the Bears can’t overhaul the line. Rather, they figure to target a free-agent guard to take over Kyle Long’s old spot. If he can play tackle in case of injury, all the better.
5. Safety: After giving Eddie Jackson a monster extension in January, the Bears will hunt for an affordable starter to pair with him. That probably won’t be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who will chase riches after putting together a solid prove-it year.
6. Outside linebacker: Leonard Floyd is set to make $13.2 million if he’s still on the roster Wednesday — a fortune for someone who, though he plays opposite Khalil Mack, doesn’t sack the quarterback. The Bears have claimed they’re committed to him, but we’ll see whether their actions say otherwise.
7. Wide receiver: The Bears need to add speed after cutting Taylor Gabriel. The draft has generational talent — and depth — at the position.
8. Inside linebacker: The Bears chose Danny Trevathan’s experience over Nick Kwiatkoski’s seemingly more expensive price tag and will pair him with up-and-comer Roquan Smith.
9. Running back: The team still sees David Montgomery as a workhorse, and do-everything Tarik Cohen has one year left on his rookie deal.
10. Specialist: Kicker Eddy Pineiro and punter Pat O’Donnell are under contract for 2020, and returner/gunner Cordarrelle Patterson is coming off a Pro Bowl selection.
11. Defensive line: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols form one of the best starting lines in the league.