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.