News that defensive tackle Henry Melton will play this season under his one-year franchise tender throws further light on the roster flexibility the Chicago Bears have built into coach Marc Trestman's first season with the team.
The chart shows 10 projected Bears starters, along with two other key players, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season. The list includes Melton, quarterback Jay Cutler, four of the Bears' top five defensive backs and two of their three starting linebackers.
I suppose you could have any number of reactions to this situation. Ideally, of course, most teams want to stagger the contract expirations of core players as much as possible. But in the Bears' case, at least, this grouping comes at an opportune time even if it wasn't intended that way.
The Bears have spent the past decade building their roster for Lovie Smith's teams, and the transition to Trestman almost certainly necessitates a different approach to player acquisition. No matter how good Trestman and his staff are at incorporating the strengths of players into their schemes, some players will be better suited than others for success.
Wherever possible, it makes sense to allow maximum flexibility for roster movement based on what the Bears learn about their players relative to the new coaching staff. That limits or eliminates the salary-cap impact of moving on from a player, and it allows for more relevant parameters when it comes time to discuss new contracts.
A list like this doesn't mean that the Bears' roster will look much different next season. It just means they've given themselves a relatively painless option for significant roster adjustments if they want.