Releasing Josh Sitton Does Not Mean the Bears Will Draft Quinton Nelson

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers yet another of your questions:

“Did the Bears show their hand possibly drafting Quinton Nelson at No. 8? — @bbtwice1080

“This was the reaction multiple people had on Twitter, that by declining the 2018 option for veteran left guard Josh Sitton, the Bears have signaled they intend to draft Nelson, the heralded guard from Notre Dame in the first round. It’s easy to see how the first move would lead folks to consider the second move, but this isn’t necessarily a sign… There will be options in free agency and Andrew Norwell of the Panthers is certainly intriguing, but he will command a big payday and more than the $8 million the Bears were going to have to pay Sitton this season. The Bears could also shop for a center and consider moving Cody Whitehair to left guard. Erik Kush remains as an option on the roster. There are a lot of moving parts here and Nelson could be part of a small group of players the Bears consider at No. 8, but it’s far from a lock.

I am on the record as saying that I thought the Bears should pick up Sitton’s option.

Having said that, I do think that I understand why the team did it. As Biggs pointed out so well, the Bears have a wealth of options for dealing with this issue. Releasing Sitton leaves them with a lot of flexibility in terms of improving the center of the offensive line and possibly getting younger at the same time.

Their best three in the middle with be Whitehair, Kyle Long and a newcomer. Whitehair can play guard or center and Long can play either guard position. The position flexibility that they bring makes it highly unlikely that the Bears will end up backed into a corner without a player that they think makes them at least as good or better.

It’s true that they created a hole they didn’t have to on a team that already has a lot of them. But in the end there’s very little difference between re-signing Sitton and signing just one more free agent at any position of need. You do it if you think it will help long-term. Perhaps it will.

Chances of Resigning Kyle Fuller Looking Grim and Other Points of View

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

    Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, who do you like? Are any of them worth the eighth pick? Will they still be there in the second round? Can the Bears afford not to use the eighth pick on a Wide Receiver given there are no free agents worth talking about? — William K., Line of scrimmage Angeles, from email

    “It’s still early in the process for evaluating players and how they will wind up being slotted in the draft, but the consensus of most of the folks I have chatted with, and this is going back to last fall, is that Ridley will be the highest-graded wide receiver for most clubs. Depending on who you talk to there are one, two, maybe three wide receivers that will come off the board in Round 1. Of course, all of that could change if a couple of players blow up the scouting combine next month or fall on their faces with poor measurables and drill work. Kirk, from Texas A&M, has been compared to Golden Tate by some, and Tate is a pretty good wide receiver but not the kind of guy you would project coming off the board in the top 10 picks or maybe even the top half of the first round. Sutton has a chance to help himself at the combine. He has good size — listed at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds (we’ll see what he measures in Indianapolis) — and was super productive at SMU with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and 31 career touchdowns. He did his work against defensive backs in the American Athletic Conference. He’s interesting, but I don’t know if he’s No. 8 pick interesting. To address your final question, the Bears absolutely cannot reach at No. 8 if they’re not in love with the player. Let me explain why. Yes, they have a glaring need at wide receiver and the position was woefully undermanned in 2017. You’re right, it seems unlikely some of the best free-agent possibilities will be available, and the Packers already took the best possibility off the market with an extension for Davante Adams back in December. But if the Bears reach for a wide receiver at No. 8 and it proves to be reach, what do they have in three years? They’ll have an overdrafted wide receiver who hasn’t lived up to the investment. If they draft a player at — pick your position — who does meet expectations of the draft slot, they’ve got a really good player in three years. What are you better off with?”

    I could not agree more.

    No matter what the need at wide receiver the Bears absolutely cannot afford to reach with this pick. Most of what I’ve heard from scouts and media experts indicates to me that there isn’t a sure #1 type receiver in this draft. To me that means most of these guys won’t be impact players. And an impact player is what the Bears need more than anything else, almost regardless of position.

    The key is to take the best available at a position of need. It needn’t be the greatest need and the Bears have enough of them to where there is no excuse for concentrating on a single group of players who do not give the team the best playmakers available.

  • Another question for Biggs:

    “I’ve read a lot of comments from fans and “experts” about how various players should be cut or signed or kept. But last year’s coaching staff really struggled taking advantage of players’ strengths. Shouldn’t it take some time for this staff to objectively evaluate what the players on offense can do? Was last year really a fair evaluation? What if Hroniss Grasu, just one example, can actually play center? — John R., Saigon, Vietnam, from email

    “You make some fair points that will certainly be considered by the Bears as they plot the moves that will lead them into the new league year beginning March 14. I agree that if they see an underperforming player from 2017 being a fit for what they would like to do, absolutely they will keep that player around. They have plenty of salary-cap flexibility, so that’s not going to sway them one way or the other. It’s about projection, fit and durability. I don’t know if Grasu is a great example because he remains under contract on his rookie deal and will almost surely be with the team heading into training camp.”

    Actually he’s a pretty awful example. Grasu just isn’t strong enough and he’s always going to struggle with a nose guard lined up right over him. In fairness, he’s not alone in that regard and I’m sure there are things you can do to help him. But Grasu isn’t going to suddenly emerge as even an average center no matter who the coaches are. He lacks stature and ability and coaches can’t work miracles where that is the case.

    If Gasu wasn’t a draft pick with a reasonably cheap salary, I believe he’d have been cut by now and replaced with an upgrade. That may happen this year.

  • Yet another good question for Biggs:

    “How do you see Ryan Pace filling the backup QB void with Mike Glennon most likely to be cut? — @nickmau91

    “My best guess is the Bears will seek a veteran to serve as the No. 2 behind Mitch Trubisky. You can’t rule out the possibility the Bears will use a draft pick on a quarterback, but considering the wealth of needs elsewhere and the benefit of having an experienced player in a reserve role, I tend to think they go the veteran route.”

    I think the interesting question here is what will the Bears do with the #3 quarterback slot. This is traditionally used for a developmental quarterback. Presumably in the Bears case, they’d be looking to develop a potential long-term back up. That could be a late draft pick but, if not, the Bears are going to be an attractive destination for the best undrafted free agents available.

    The Bears are rumored to be interested in former Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and they did talk to him at the Senior Bowl. But the guess here is that the only way they’d take him is if he had a very significant fall to the lower rounds.

    Not the most critical question about the Bears roster by any means. But, like the say, the most popular player on the roster is the back up quarterback.

  • One more:

    “Will Tarik Cohen and Adam Shaheen be limited this year, too, because they struggled to learn Dowell Loggains’ offense and now have to learn Matt Nagy’s? — @occamsdragon

    “I don’t think that’s fair to Cohen or Shaheen. For starters, I don’t think you can say Cohen struggled to learn the offense last season. Quite the opposite. He learned a ton. The Bears lined Cohen up all over the field and he did well at a lot of different positions. He played running back, slot receiver, he lined up on the outside at wide receiver and he learned responsibilities in the return game for punts and kicks. That’s a full plate right there. Were fans frustrated Cohen wasn’t involved more in the third-down package and the hurry-up offense the team used late in games? Sure. I get that. Cohen was also 5-foot-6, 181 pounds and had he blown a pass-blocking assignment or been flat run over by a pass rusher and quarterback Mitch Trubisky was injured, Loggains would have been on the first train out of town. That’s not something a lot of people were willing to consider when clamoring for Cohen to be used more. Can he be utilized more in the new scheme? No doubt. But he’s probably still a joker back no matter who is designing the offense. Shaheen was making the major jump from Division II and yes it took him some time to pick things up, but who didn’t expect that? Remember, Greg Olsen was a little slow to be assimilated into the offense when he was a first-round pick in 2007 coming out of a pro-style offense at Miami. I’d expect both players to be improved and productive in 2018.”

    In fairness to the questioner, Cohen did say himself that he had trouble learning the plays albeit, as Biggs points out, that’s partly because he was put in so many positions all over the field.

    My guess is that Shaheen has less trouble translating what he learned last year to the new offense. Though the scheme is different, a lot of what was difficult was undoubtedly just learning to play the tight end position to a professional standard after spending his college career at Ashland. The guess here is that a lot of it was simply learning how to block and how to use his body more effectively in the passing game. That will be something he won’t have to learn again regardless of scheme.

    I’m not too worried about either of these players struggling simply because they are in a new scheme.

  • Last one:

    “ What do you think the chances of re-signing Kyle Fuller are? Can’t have another homegrown player get away, a la Alshon Jeffrey last year. — @dwhite4120

    “That’s a great question and one that will be very interesting to watch develop in the coming weeks. The Bears can keep Fuller in place with the franchise or transition tag. Short of that, he will be headed to the open market and if I’m him, I’m seeing what my market value is before I make a decision about signing anywhere. The Bears have to weigh a lot of factors when considering their move here and Fuller’s performance during 2017 will lead them to think long and hard about keeping him in a Bears uniform. I’d hesitate a little comparing him to Jeffery because all of these situations have their own factors. Fuller’s situation is in a lot of ways very, very different from Jeffery, who emerged earlier in his career. Stay tuned.”

    It looks like the chances of the Bears re-signing Fuller are pretty grim. Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports is reporting that Fuller is likely to price out the Bears which I’m guessing means that they aren’t offering what he thinks is going to be his market value.

    Though Fuller was a valuable piece last year and it would be nice to have him back, its worth noting that most of the teams the Bears faced perferred to challenge him rather than Prince Amukamura on the other side. And then there’s that flakey situation in 2016 where the Bears thought Fuller was ready to play and he refused.

    I don’t find it hard to believe that the Bears aren’t offering what Fuller wants. But I do wonder if it’s the right call. We hear about the dangers of signing other teams cast-offs in free agency every year. Perhaps there’s something about Fuller that has turned the Bears off. But otherwise, if you are going to overpay someone, finding a way to pay your own guy seems like the way to go.

Bears Have Plenty of Free Agents to Resign Under the Right Circumstances

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune runs through the list of Bears free agents . I have some thoughts on a few of these.

“Wide receiver (2): Dontrelle Inman: Is a fourth option in a quality passing attack. Made more than three catches in only three games.

Kendall Wright: Highly productive in final month of the season and could be a fit for new coaching staff but in a perfect world he’s the No. 3 and that has been the problem with the offense the last couple of years. The Bears have had wide receivers overslotted.”

I’d like to see both of these men brought back on reasonable deals.

Inman seemed to my eye to come on at the end of the season and he had 5 catches for 94 yards (18.8 yds/reception) in the last game against the Vikings.

It’s probably true that Wright probably is a #3 receiver but that made him the best receiver on the team whis year. He has a knack for getting open.

Having said that, Wright didn’t seem to do too well with the Titans after Dowell Loggains left Tennessee. He blamed this on no longer being able to improvise with his pass routes.

Wright reunited with Loggains this year and had success but now that Loggains is gone there’s no guarantee that Wright’s career won’t collapse again as it did the last time that happened. A lot will likely depend upon new head coach Matt Nagy’s willingness and ability to adapt to Wright’s style.

“Defensive line (2): John Jenkins: A fill-in on the line, he played sparingly in eight games. Could return as depth but would have to compete for roster spot.

Mitch Unrein: At 30, he had his best season with 32 tackles and 2½ sacks before a season-ending knee injury. Smart, dependable performer has trust of defensive coaches, and that matters.”

Unrein is a no brainer. Solid starter who can be depended upon to set the edge and stop the run. Not all defensive linemen need to be mad pass rushers in a 3-4.

It’s true that Jenkins didn’t play much but that’s because nose tackle Eddie Goldman stayed relatively healthy. When Goldman exited the line up with an injury in 2016, the Bears had no depth behind him and it showed.

The bet here is that either Jenkins is resigned to play the same role as Goldman’s back up or someone else is (or both).

“Cornerback (3): Prince Amukamara: Didn’t get the type of multiyear contract he was seeking in free agency so he signed a $7 million, one-year deal. Hard to see him getting the big money deal he sought after this past season but he was dependable and has value as a No. 2 starter.

Kyle Fuller: Contract season brought out what was far and away the best season for the former first-round draft pick. Bears likely will need to tag him to prevent him from at least exploring the open market, and he will be in upper tier of available cornerbacks meaning he should command north of $10 million per year.

Sherrick McManis: Led the team in point production for special teams players despite missing three games with a hamstring injury. He will seek another multi-year deal after finishing two-year contract. If Bears cannot re-sign him they need to find a special teams ace.”

It’s still a mystery to me why so many teams decided to throw at Fuller rather than Amukamara this year. It made sense at the beginning of the year but even after it became apparent that Fuller was having a career year, teams continued to throw to his side.

It’s possible that as good as Fuller played, most teams prefered to stay away from Amukamara because, despite appearances, they still considered him to be the better corner. And to my eye, there were certainly times when he did look very good simply in terms of staying with receivers.

If I’m general manager Ryan Pace and I can get Amukamura again under nearly the same contract terms, maybe even for more than one year, I do it.

Picking Up the Option on Josh Sitton a No Brainer for the Bears

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reminds us that the window for the Bears to pick up their 2018 option on guard Josh Sitton begins Friday.  The decision must be made before March 9.

Sitton is arguably the Bears most consistent offensive lineman but he’s going to be 32 next season and missed 3 games last year with injuries. The option is for $8 million including bonuses and his dead cap number is only $666,667.  The Bears have plenty of cap space.

In my opinion it would be a mistake to fail to pick up this option. Not doing so creates another hole in the lineup on a team that already has a lot of holes to fill.

Many fans would like to see the Bears spend their first round pick on former Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who might be the best player in the draft. However, it’s hard to justify using that pick to replace a good veteran guard rather than to fill an existing need. It’s also no guarantee that Nelson will be there for them at the 8th overall pick even if they wish to do so.  If the Bears wish to plan for the future at the position, they should either pick up a guard in the later rounds to develop or concentrate on getting something out of 2017 fifth round pick Jordan Morgan, who lost his rookie season to shoulder surgery last year.

The only way I see this happening is if the Bears sign Sitton, draft Nelson, then trade Sitton for another pick in the draft. It seems unlikely that they could pull that off and it wouldn’t be a great way to treat a veteran player. The Bears have typically avoided those sorts of moves.