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Depending on your point of view, it’s probably good news seeing that four of the five starers who were part of an improved group down the stretch. And if you add James Daniels to the mix with Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, Alex Bars, and Sam Mustipher, this collection of linemen could be better positioned in the trenches in 2021.
Joining that group of projected starters who also happen to be under contract are Bobby Massie (more on him in a bit), Dieter Eiselen, Arlington Hambright, Lachavious Simmons, and Badara Traore. Hambright and Simmons Nike Chicago Bears Jerseys were seventh-round draft picks in 2020, but are still projects. Same for last year’s UDFAs, Eiselen and Traore. It would be nice for a few of these players to grow into usable depth pieces, but none of them are at that point yet.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
Germain Ifedi is the only starter from last year’s line who isn’t on the books for 2021. Ifedi began the season at guard before moving to right tackle out of necessity. In the right system, Ifedi could be a valuable sixth offensive lineman, someone who can start in a pinch and not tank your line’s production. Knowing the Bears’ history with a lack of depth, they should consider retaining Ifedi in that role (but only if the price is right).
Rashaad Coward made 15 starts over the last two seasons. And while the converted nose tackle gave us a fun story to follow, his play at right guard and right tackle was unsatisfactory. Maybe he could be a late-bloomer who grows into the position after putting in more work on his craft. But the Bears can’t afford to start a project if they’re in a competitive window.
Jason Spriggs comes off the books after playing just eight games in his first (and perhaps, only) year with the Bears after four seasons with the Packers
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
Both tackles are serious cut candidates, but for different reasons.
Chicago could release Bobby Massie, creating $5.4 million in cap space by doing so. Massie’s strengths were in durability and reliability, but injuries cut short his last two seasons. And as he enters his age 32 season, it might make most sense to part ways with him now. Should the Bears decide they want to spread the dead money hit over two years, the team could clear $8 million in a post-June 1 cut, leaving the team with $1.3 million of “dead money.”
Cutting Charles Leno Jr. is a popular sentiment in some circles, although I struggle to see why. Leno isn’t a top-tier left tackle, but he isn’t a bottom-of-the-barrel guy either. But sometimes, it’s difficult to draw a line between being league average at a premier position and being a cut below. And it’s not as Leno is being paid beyond his production. But for the sake of this post, it’s worth pointing out the Bears could cut Leno and create $6.2 million in cap space. Although, it would come with a $5.1 million hit in the dead money department. A post-June 1 cut could spread that hit over two years, making it a more sightly $2.3 million — all while clearing $9 million in cap room.
Remember, post-June 1 cut designations can be used for only two players. So should the Bears decide to go this route, they should choose wisely.
Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com
Before we jump into addressing the group with external options, the Bears must once again do some self-scouting internally.