Not only will John Tait’s expected retirement force the Bears to contemplate offseason moves on the offensive line, it will lead the organization to make a decision on money that has already been paid to the veteran right tackle.
Tait, who one source told the paper is definitely walking away from the game, has one year remaining on his contract at $4.8 million and his departure would create a salary-cap savings of $4.85 million, including a $50,000 workout bonus he has for this year.
When he departs it will create a void at offensive tackle for the club as Chris Williams, the 2008 first-round pick, will be the only player at the position under contract. When his retirement papers are officially filed–nothing is finalized right now–it will also create an opportunity for the organization to recoup a pro-rated portion of bonus money that has already been paid to Tait. There’s no saying that would be a move general manager Jerry Angelo would elect to make but it would be an option.
Tait has been a good player for the Bears on and off the field. He started 73-of-80 regular-season games since being signed away from the Kansas City Chiefs as a restricted free agent in 2004. He was also very involved in charities sponsored by the organization.
The amount of money the Bears could seek is believed to be nominal–$500,000, the remaining portion of the $3 million signing bonus he received. The Bears had to front load the contract to prevent the Chiefs from matching it. Kansas City was in a tight bind with its salary cap so the Bears included the signing bonus but also a $7.5 million roster bonus. With a base salary of $535,000 and a $50,000 workout bonus, Tait’s cap figure for that season was $11,085,000.
It’s not believed the Bears could pursue Tait for any portion of the $7.5 million roster bonus, not in light of the ruling by a federal judge last year in the Atlanta Falcons’ attempt to get money back from ex-quarterback Michael Vick. U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled the collective bargaining agreement did not allow roster bonus money to be forfeited once it’s been earned. Jake Plummer eventually agreed to pay back half of a $7 million bonus to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they acquired him from the Denver Broncos in a trade and he never reported.
Of course, the Bears may let Tait walk with the $500,000. He did all they asked and could simply be making the decision that it’s best for his future. Stay tuned.