At 3 p.m. CDT this afternoon, the 2014 NFL season will officially begin. At that moment, players may begin signing with teams. As always, the action promises to be fast and furious.
Below is Bear Report's growing list of Chicago Bears news, notes and rumors from opening day. We'll continuously add to this news list as the day progresses. Let's get to it.
-After losing out on defensive end Michael Bennett yesterday, who re-signed with the Seattle Seahawks, there were rumors of the Bears' interest in former Bengals edge rusher Michael Johnson. Yet it appears Johnson is not in the team's future plans, as ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting Johnson will likely head to Tampa Bay to play under former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
Schefter's tweet: "Buccaneers and Bengals free-agent DE Michael Johnson in "serious discussions."
UPDATE: Johnson has reportedly agreed with the Buccaneers to a five-year deal worth $43.75 million ($8.75 million per season), with $24 million guaranteed.
-There are also rumors the Bears have shifted their attention to Raiders defensive lineman Lamarr Houston. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Bears are "pushing hard" for Houston, who had 6.0 sacks in Oakland last season. Houston is also solid against the run, an area in which the Bears – ranked 32nd vs. the run in 2013 – need to upgrade.
-According to the NFL, the Bears officially have $7.9 million in cap space, the fifth lowest total of any team in the league. That number likely doesn't include yesterday's cuts of Michael Bush and Dante Rosario, which cleared $2.4 million in cap space.
Either way, the Bears currently are one of the most cash-strapped teams in the NFL.
-If the Bears cut Julius Peppers today, which appears likely, they will officially clear $9,816,665 in cap space. If they designate him a June 1 cut, they'll save an additional $4,183,333, which totals $14 million in savings.
-The Bears and linebacker D.J. Williams are close to signing an agreement. Williams started six games for the team last season before landing on IR with a torn pectoral.
-The NFL's adjusted salary cap allows teams to carry over unused cash from the previous year to add to the team's current salary cap. The Bears aren't carrying much over and will enter 2014 with an adjusted cap, based off a $133 million 2014 cap, of $133,006,955. Only seven teams have a lower adjusted salary cap (Saints, Lions, Giants, Rams, Redskins, Ravens, Raiders).
-Josh McCown said on SiriusXM NFL Radio this morning that he wants to "get a done deal quickly" and will be "visiting" another team. He also said he's talked to four different teams but that he's narrowed it down to one or two.
It's unclear if the Bears are still on his short list, as there is obviously interest from other teams in McCown as a starter.
-The Atlanta Falcons are reportedly on the verge of re-signing DL Jonathan Babineaux. There goes one more productive, although not elite, defensive lineman off the market.
-UPDATE: The Falcons have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Babineaux.
-The Detroit Lions have re-signed RFA RB Joique Bell to a three-year contract worth $9.3 million, with $4.3 million guaranteed. Bell served as the thunder to Reggie Bush's lightning in Detroit's two-head backfield last year. Bell is a load in short-yardage situations and he's one of the better pass-catching backs in the league. Considering how fragile Bush can be, this was a very smart move by the Lions.
The Browns are close to finalizing a deal with former 49ers safety Donte Whitner, one of the top safeties on the market. The Bears reportedly had interest in Whitner.
-The Giants re-signed S Stevie Brown to a one-year deal. Brown was an option for the Bears, as he would have been relatively cheap coming off a lost season in 2013 due to injury. Another quality safety off the board.
-The Texans released tight end Owen Daniels in a cost-cutting move. Daniels made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his second trip to Hawaii, and is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league. He's a hometown guy, having played high school football at Naperville Central. The Bears have a need for a backup tight end but Daniels is starter material and will likely be out of their price range.
-Panthers S Mike Mitchell will not be re-signing in Carolina. He's a good fit and a possible target for the Bears.
-The Cowboys are expected to release DeMarcus Ware. He could fill Chicago's pass-rush needs.
-As expected, the Buccaneers and Lovie Smith are making a run at Charles Tillman. Tampa Bay is also in the running to sign Josh McCown. They appear the front runners at this point for both players.
-The Falcons have released Pro Bowl safety Thomas Decoud. He could be a target for the Bears at a position of serious need.
-McCown's three upcoming visits: Buccaneers first, then the Texans and the Jets.
The Bears have signed former Raiders DE Lamarr Houston to a five-year, $35 million deal.
-The Bears have re-signed MLB D.J. Williams to a one-year deal.
-The Bears are out of the running for Mike Mitchell.
-Former Browns safety T.J. Ward, one of the top safeties on the market and one who could have been a huge boost to the Bears, has signed with the Broncos.
-The Bears are close to signing a deal with former Giants safety Ryan Mundy, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
-Refresh this page for more updates....
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.