Bears to Decline Option on Guard Josh Sitton, Which Will Lead to Changes Along the Offensive Line
Even though each of his two seasons was cut short due to injury, Josh Sitton was productive in his time with the Chicago Bears. Alas, the organization seems set on moving in a different direction.
NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero tweets the Bears will decline their option on guard Josh Sitton, who will now become a free agent. Pelissero expects the team will go with a younger option at the position in the wake of this move. Sitton, who turns 32 in June, missed six games due to injuries in two years with Chicago after missing two games in the previous seven years with the Green Bay Packers. So perhaps with that in mind, the Bears are now opting for youth (and possibly better health) in this changing of the guard.
By parting ways with Sitton now, the Bears gain $7,906,250 in cap savings. Had Chicago picked up the option on Sitton, he would have made a base salary of $7.4 million with a cap hit of $8,572,9918.
While the Bears save money in the short term, cutting Sitton creates a pretty significant hole along the offensive line. Sitton was Pro Football Focus’ fifth-highest-graded offensive guard and has graded out as a “high quality” offensive lineman or better on the site in each of the last nine seasons.
Of course, the Bears could solve that issue rather conveniently by drafting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick. And why not? One NFL Scouting Director believes Nelson is as close to a sure-thing as you can get in the draft and suggested there’s no way he becomes a bust. But if Nelson is that highly sought-after by teams in front of him in the draft, the Bears might need some help if he is going to fall to the back half of the top-10. Both the Denver Broncos (who pick fifth) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (seventh) have been connected to Nelson in various early mock drafts.
Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell is the best of the free agent bunch. Norwell is coming off an All-Pro season and is five years younger than Sitton, so he would fit the mold of a younger impact guard the Bears will seek this offseason.
The price tag could be hefty to bring Norwell into the fold. In 2017, the Cleveland Browns signed left guard Joel Bitonio and right guard Kevin Zeitler to five-year deals to shore up the interior of their offensive line. Bitonio’s deal could featured more than $17 million in fully guaranteed money and could be worth up to $50 million. Zeitler’s deal, which could be worth up to $60 million, included $23 million guaranteed at the signing as part of a total guarantee that reaches $31.5 million.
The team could opt to move center Cody Whitehair to left guard, a position he played often when Sitton and/or Kyle Long were out of the lineup in 2017. It’s something the team was believed to be discussing earlier in the offeseason. However, that would create a need at center. It’s possible Hroniss Grasu fills in there, but he hasn’t shown anything in his limited playing time to suggest he has earned an expanded role in the offense.
In any case, the group protecting Mitch Trubisky and clearing running room for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will have a different look in 2018.