Revisiting the cap impact of the Cutler trade

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Thanks to everyone who joined us for a diverse and wide-ranging SportsNation chat that only moderately dealt with a guy whose name rhymes with Fay Butler. Here's a full transcript if you missed it.

Keith's question allows us to expand on an under-told part of the Jay Cutler trade story. Our exchange:

Keith (Belvidere, IL [via mobile]: With Chicago trading for Cutler (which I personally believe was a fantastic move on Angelo's part) where does that leave them in terms of salary cap space for the draft and the rest of free agency this year and can you see Hakeem Nicks still being available when they draft in the 2nd rd?

SportsNation Kevin Seifert: Oddly, the Bears now have more salary cap space in the short-term than they would have were it not for the trade. Cutler has a lower cap number in 2009 than Orotn would have. And the Bears will have to spend less money to sign their rookie classes in each of the next two years after giving up the first-round picks. That money gets transferred from the rookie pool to the general salary cap to be used on veteran players.

Yes, Cutler ($1.035 million) will actually count slightly less against the Bears' salary cap in 2009 than Kyle Orton would have ($1.095 million). The reason, for you cap enthusiasts: By NFL cap rules, only Cutler's base salary travels with him to Chicago. The remaining proration from his guaranteed money remains on Denver's books.

I wouldn't suggest that the salary cap played any role in this trade. But the fact is the Bears will also realize a "savings" from not having the No. 18 overall pick in the draft later this month. Based on 2008 draft numbers, you can assume the No. 18 pick this year will get a five-year deal worth about $15 million, including perhaps $9 million in guaranteed money. Teams structure rookie deals differently, but it's reasonable to assume a first-year cap number of around $3 million that won't count against the Bears' cap in 2009.

From a pure salary-cap perspective, the Bears won't have an incentive to extend Cutler's contract until its final year in 2011. Based on likely-to-be-earned incentives, Cutler's 2010 cap number is expected to be a reasonable $5.532 million. It jumps to $13.91 million for 2011, but you would assume Cutler will have a new contract by then -- if not long before.