Also Important: Bears Sign Jennings, Slauson to New Deals

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With the Jay Cutler frenzy in full force, it’s easy to focus on that at the expense of the other signings that Phil Emery announced today. Tim Jennings and Matt Slauson both re-upped for four years, and those are both very important retentions for the Bears. (I haven’t been able to find terms of either deal, but I’ll update this post with them as soon as I can.) Why are they important? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Tim Jennings

Jennings, 30, came to Chicago prior to the 2010 season in a reserve role, and full disclosure: I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time. As you might know by now, I live in Indiana, and we get every Colts game. (Plus, that was the heyday of the Peyton Manning era, so the Colts were on national television seemingly every other week.) I had seen Jennings play, and I wasn’t overly impressed. He was short, he didn’t seem that fast, and for some reason he seemed to give opposing receivers a massive cushion on every play. Particularly, I remember a play in a Colts-Patriots game in which he drew the Randy Moss assignment with the Patriots inside the five. Jennings backed off to the middle of the endzone, Moss ran to the goal-line, stopped, and Brady hit him. Jennings wasn’t within two yards of Moss at any point on the play; he may as well have been off the field. As was customary for me then (and now) I was cheering like crazy against New England, so that play irked me. And since I wasn’t following him on a game-to-game basis, those sort of fleeting glimpses were all I had by which to judge him.

But he’s been a revelation in Chicago, especially over the last two seasons. First, he’s played in all but two games since he joined the Bears. Second, he had nine picks last year, and four more this season. That led the league in 2012, and put him in a tie for 11th in 2013. The Bears coaching staff deserves a lot of credit, and it’s worth noting that he’s had the same position coach since he came to Chicago; DB coach Jon Hoke was the lone holdover from the Lovie Smith era.  This season was an especially good test for Jennings; Charles Tillman missed a large portion of the year, meaning Jennings drew the opponents toughest assignment almost every week. He responded, holding players like Dez Bryant and Josh Gordon in check, despite a limited pass rush and minimal help from the overmatched safeties.

It remains to be seen what will happen with Tillman, due to his age and potential asking price. And I don’t think anyone expects the starting safety combination to remain the same. (If it is, I might cry.) Getting Jennings signed allows some flexibility as Phil Emery attacks his offseason plan. It’s one less thing to worry about, whether he slots in as the #1 or #2 corner next year. It helps to lock in the plan of attack for free agency, and then the draft.

Matt Slauson

Rather than being the only certainty at his positional group (like Jennings), Slauson becomes the fourth starting offensive lineman the Bears have under contract as they go forward. (Roberto Garza is also a free agent, and the likelihood of his return is up in the air.) Slauson, 27, joins Jermon Bushrod (29) to form a young-but-experienced left side on the Bears burgeoning offensive line. The right side consisted of two rookies (Kyle Long and Jordan Mills) who are obviously both still under contract, and they both played well. All four were new faces this year, and with the new group (as well as the new coaching staff) the Bears went from allowing the 8th highest sack total (44) to allowing the 28th highest (30). Jordan Mills apparently suffered a metatarsal injury, and his performance struggled some down the stretch. But I don’t think it’s crazy to call the offensive line a potential strength for the team; it’s certainly a far cry from the glaring weakness of prior years.

Slauson signed a one-year deal with the Bears last offseason, for near the minimum. Yet another great find by Phil Emery, who continues to inspire a lot of confidence (Shea McClellin notwithstanding), and I’m excited to see what Slauson can do going forward. (Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, he has a great Chicago Bear last name; perfect for maximum Superfan-accent pronunciation.)

 

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

28 responses to “Also Important: Bears Sign Jennings, Slauson to New Deals”

  1. Joker

    These signings please me. Now to make a quick decision on Peppers vs cap space and find out if Peanut is willing to take a hometown, end of career type of deal to stick around. Then on to finding new DL, safties, and additional LB

  2. Serious Bears Fan

    Do you think Long will eventually move to LT in the future? He built like a tackle. Mills REALLY needs to hit to weight room this offseason if wants to remain at LT. He was a pleasant surprise for a rookie but was still just serviceable at best at LT during the beginning of the season. He really got pushed around. I really hope Mills offseason training doesn’t get deterred by this injury, because its crucial he gets stronger this offseason

    1. mdavis

      Mills was RT, but i could see these two swapping. Mills into Guard, Long out to Tackle. if not this year, than possibly down the line. but hey, to get a guy who was a 5th round pick and start every game and hold his own, you gotta be beyond thrilled by that.

  3. Serious Bears Fan

    I have to say Emery’s only glaring blotch draft pick was Shea McClellin. Doesn’t fit a 4-3 defense, he’s not full 4-3 DE. He’s a 3-4 linebacker. He still could be a useful I think but ONLY in the right defense.

    1. Serious Bears Fan

      I’m curious to see if the Mel Tucker trys (Or Emery allows him to) shifts the defense to more of a 3-4 defense. Would fit Shea McClellin a lot more. But I don’t see it. Jennings just got signed longterm and he is not a man-to-man corner. He’s much better in zone coverage. Also they don’t have a nose-tackle that fits that scheme currently (maybe Paea? but he play terrible this season). Bostic is more of 3-4 outside linebacker, IMO.

    2. Jon

      Brandon Hardin? Actually outside of Jeffrey and maybe Frey, the 2012 draft so far is a complete wash.

      1. Chicago4life

        Alshon Jeffery is a pretty nice pick that makes that draft pretty strong. If you could get just one superstar out of every draft, you are doing real good.

        1. mdavis

          eh, i’m not sure i agree. look at how that draft hurt just this year. needed another DE, McCellin was ineffective. Needed another safety to at least compete, Hardin was a total bust. Rodriguez was trouble and he’s gone. and McCoy was flyer that didn’t work out.

          1. frank

            Good points – What concerns me is that both McClellin and Bostic were drafted for positions into which they don’t fit. They’ve now admitted that, which means it at least can be fixed, but I wonder about the scouting and selection process if they continue to draft players who’s skill sets don’t fit the positions for which they’re drafted.

            1. mdavis

              I haven’t quite written off Bostic yet…he needed a full year of learning, he wasn’t ready last season. I think we’ll see marked improvement next year, and ultimately with his athleticism i htink he could replace Briggs at the will in a couple of years. but otherwise this draft was solid i’d say so far.

          2. Chicago4life

            This is true, but the reason each pick is so important right now is because we drafted so poorly year after year with Angelo at the helm. When that happens, it puts more pressure on one draft.

      2. JB88

        I thought I read once that a good draft should land you one All-Pro and another starter (I concede from the get-go that I might be misremembering this).

        Jeffery certainly looks like an All-Pro, but I don’t see a starter in the 2012 draft outside of that. The 2013 draft looks like a potential HR. Long and Mills are starters, for sure. Greene and Bostic started this year (but I’m not particularly bullish on them) and it certainly seems like Wilson is likely to be the 3rd WR starting next year.

        That’s a great draft. It isn’t high on defensive talent, yet, but the focus of the past two drafts really wasn’t on the defense. I’m cautiously optimistic that Emery can fix the defense this year.

        1. J. F. Edwards

          Can’t be true. After 11 seasons that nets you 11 All-pros and 11 starters, half on offense and half on defense I suppose? No team in the NFL has that lineup.

          It’s the combination of scouting, drafting and coaching (the whole context) matching up with the right guys that makes it work. Probably some rare exceptions but usually great football players also have the benefit of a franchise/system that recognizes and supports their abilities.

          I think it’s wise to temper expectations. It’s a fool’s errand to assume a high-caliber draft every year. No team can meet that bar consistently.

          And I don’t think every draft offers the opportunity, even if a GM knew exactly how every career would play out…

          1. J. F. Edwards

            All that being said, I trust Emery more than any Bears GM I can remember in 30 years.

            1. Justin

              The 2012 draft was just bad. Thank God for Alshon or it may be up there for worst Bears draft ever, and that’s saying a lot. I think the most frustrating part of that draft was that Emery’s first ever pick was McClellin. All Bears fans were so excited for someone other than Angelo to be drafting and Emery’s 1st pick was a bust. I am still wait and see on Emery. He seems like he really likes to pick guys that are out of left field and way earlier than they are projected to be picked, which is a bit scary. Seems like he wants to show everyone he is the smartest guy in the room…

              1. Toby

                “Seems like he wants to show everyone he is the smartest guy in the room” like picking Mills and Long.

                1. Justin

                  Obviously those picks work out well, but I was just saying every pick doesn’t have to be out of no where. Clearly, Emery could care less about other people’s boards and I like that to an extent. But all the experts aren’t always wrong on their rankings..

  4. kq

    I think they will transition to a hybrid defense, if done right with a good draft can cause a lot of confusion for offenses. Thats seems to be the goal, Emery and Trestman brought up throughout the presser about causing disruption on D. Bostac and Shea are both OLB.

    1. mdavis

      I’m not sure I see Bostic as a 3-4 OLB… that being said, i look at Baltimore and New England and they run a hybrid type of def. I’d be interested in seeing if the Bears make that move, because if Tucker is back (neither emery or trestman gave a ringing endorsement) i think the scheme will be changed or at least altered.

      1. Ed

        I’d really like to see Ray Horton as our DC.

        1. frank

          I’d like Horton too–but I think he’s a strict 3-4 guy and the Bears don’t have anywhere near the personnel needed to run a 3-4. That transition would take at least 2-3 years. The Saints did it, but they already had some 3-4 types on the roster who were arguably miscast in the 4-3 they were running previously.

          1. Jon

            The Bears don’t have the personal to run a 4-3 either.

            1. frank

              Good point . . .

          2. CubbiesOHCubbies

            Well if they were ever going to transition at a 3-4 now is the time to do it. Your rebuilding your entire defense over the next offseason or two, so if that’s the plan then they need to look for 3-4 style players. I really think McClellan could flourish as a stand up pass rusher on the outside of a 3-4 scheme.

  5. kq

    Tucker use to run 3-4 so they are going to pick his brain on a new scheme and make a decision.

    1. frank

      I agree–but he’s run both. They may go to a more traditional 4-3 than the Tampa 2 — something more akin to what Greg Blache ran here. If they start picking up defensive tackles who look like the Adler Planetarium with facemasks, we’ll have a pretty good idea.

      1. JB88

        If Peppers comes back, I think he’d actually look pretty good in a 3-4 defense. Over the past few years, so many of his sacks seem to come when he’s either stunted inside or been lined up as a tackle in rushing situations anyway.

        1. frank

          He might. Just because he doesn’t have the prototypical size for a 3-4 doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be effective in it.

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