A new era of Bears football begins in 2018 with Matt Nagy leading the way as the 16th head coach in franchise history. But for Nagy to succeed, he’ll need an injection of talent at various positions across the field – free agency is one such avenue for that improvement.
So let’s take a look at some of the more promising available free agents, to see if there might be a fit with the Chicago Bears.
Player, Age (in 2018), Position
Zach Fulton, 27, Center/guard
Season stats: 15 games (12 starts)
Pro Football Focus grades: 68.8 (overall), 87.5 (pass blocking), 49.1 (run blocking)
Fulton started 2017 as a backup, but filled in for center Mitch Morse early in the season. There wasn’t much of a drop-off (if any) from Morse to Fulton, which is a testament to Fulton’s skill, preparation, and the overall efficiency in which Kansas City’s offense operates.
Performance Before 2017
Stats: 48 games (34 starts), 5 games (26 starts)
Pro Football Focus grades: 71.6 (2016), 66.9 (2015), 46.6 (2014)
In a sense, Fulton has been Mr. Reliable for the Chiefs’ offensive line. Wherever he is asked to play, he does it and performs admirably. He isn’t the kind of bulldozing interior lineman in the running game and isn’t some elite pass blocker, but he excels in both areas.
In The End …
Fulton checks several boxes for the Bears. He is familiar with Matt Nagy’s offensive system, played under OL Coach Harry Hiestand while at Tennessee, has shown versatility by starting at both guard spots and at center, and projects to have some prime years ahead of him because he won’t turn 27 until September.
If the Bears believe Cody Whitehair’s long-term future is at guard, the team could slide Fulton in at center where he played 634 snaps in 2017. And since he knows the calls, protections, and language in Nagy’s offense, that might turn out to be the best fit for the team in the grand scheme of things. But Whitehair already has a rapport with Mitch Trubisky at center, so if the team feels as if Whitehair can pick up the terminology and all the other necessary little things that add up, then it’s possible he (and not Fulton) would be the team’s best center. That would leave Fulton as Josh Sitton’s replacement at left guard. Signing Fulton wouldn’t be the most-exciting addition, but he fits a need and gives the team options moving forward.
Versatile, starting-caliber offensive linemen who have proven to be durable and productive are going to be valued highly in the open market. And after watching the Bears try to mix-and-match along the interior in 2017, plugging Fulton in one of the spots on the line would plug a hole created by Sitton’s departure.