Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers another of your questions:
“Can you rationalize your earlier report when the Bears signed Ted Larsen that the team expects him to seriously compete with Matt Slauson for the starting left guard position? This makes no sense whatsoever… [Consider] what a great locker room presence Slauson is by all accounts and the fact that he’s on a very team-friendly deal considering his quality of play. What gives here, Brad? – Ted D., South Bend, Ind.
“I don’t have to rationalize a report. I reported what multiple sources relayed to me. That is how the situation was described to me on multiple fronts and that led me to report what I learned. Whether everyone agrees with it or not, it’s what I discovered in reporting the additions of Larsen and veteran center/guard Manny Ramirez, who were both signed in late March… At this point, I expect the Bears to see if they can potentially trade Slauson for a draft pick this year. If not, they’ll have quality depth on the offensive line when they head to training camp in Bourbonnais and the depth chart will shake out there. Larsen signed a contract that is above backup pay and if he turns into a starter, he will earn decent money. Not quite where Slauson is at (nearly $3 million) but good money. If Larsen does win the starting job, you would have to wonder if the team wants to pay a backup guard $3 million. I don’t know the answer to that right now and the Bears probably don’t either. There’s no question Slauson is a respected player in the locker room who has helped out not only Long but left tackle Charles Leno as well. Let’s see how this plays out.”
Biggs read my mind here. General manager Ryan Pace has done a very good job in playing the offseason for the Bears this year. Not only is his biggest need (defensive line) the strength of the draft, his biggest excess is the biggest need for teams around the NFL.
If there’s one thing the NFL was characterized by last year it was poor offensive line play, especially on the interior. Within the NFC North alone the Lions were notable for it despite drafting Laken Tomlinson at guard in the first round. The Vikings made the playoffs but struggled to beat good teams all year and they literally lost the playoff game, all mostly because of some terrible performance from their offensive line.
Twenty-one of the 32 NFL teams need offensive line help gong into the draft and at least 11 of those have a need at guard. The position has been becoming more and more valuable over the last decade and, though there’s a thought that you can pick up linemen late in the draft, particularly guards, you have to wonder if there are going to be enough good ones to go around this time.
Look for Pace to try to trade to use his excess to make hay in the draft. If a pick doesn’t come for Slauson this year, one could certainly come for next year when teams take stock after the draft and find that they still have a need to fill at guard.