It wasn’t long ago that outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was considered the Chicago Bears’ best defender. Times have changed and the once reliable edge defender has become more of a liability.
After a good start against the Detroit Lions in Week 15, a batted pass and blowing up a screen pass, McPhee rushed off the field with an apparent shoulder injury in the second quarter. He did not return.
In his three seasons with Chicago, McPhee has missed nine games. In 2016, he started the year on the PUP list due to a knee injury and didn’t make his season debut until Week 7. It looked like 2017 was going to start the same way, McPhee missed the entire preseason on the PUP, again with the same knee issue, but he was activated before Week 1.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for McPhee since arriving in Chicago in 2015. He had a career high 42 tackles in first season as a Bear and has his second-highest total so far this year, 20. His pass rush ability hasn’t faltered much, he’s been incredibly consistent. He tallied six sacks in 2015, and four in each of the last two seasons.
Looking forward, McPhee is set to make over $8 million in each of the next two seasons. That’s a lot of dough for an injury prone outside linebacker. It will be in general manager Ryan Pace’s best interest to cut his losses and use that money elsewhere.
If McPhee is cut, the Bears will have $1 million in dead cap in 2018, and $500,000 in 2019, but will save $15,075,000 over the next two seasons.
McPhee might not be the only outside linebacker on his way out. Bear fans may have seen the of Willie Young. The pass rusher, known most for his fishing sack dance, hasn’t aged well and has been out since the Week 4 game against the Green Bay Packers. Young tore his triceps and landed on IR.
Even when he was healthy, it looked like Young’s age was starting to catch up with him. He did have two sacks through four games, but looked lost on run plays. He was getting blown off the line of scrimmage, becoming a non-factor.
The 32-year-old, former Detroit Lion is set to make $5.4 million next season. If Young is cut, it would create $900,000 in dead cap, but free up $4.5 million.
Between the two cuts, that’s $11.575 million in cap space for next season, enough money to lock down a big name free agent wide receiver, Chicago’s biggest need, but make the once stout outside linebacker group very thin.