The Bears’ 2018 season was equal parts successful and fun, though it’s finally time to move on. But before we get right to 2019, let’s take a position-by-position look at the roster – as presently constructed – to find out what’s in store for the offseason and upcoming year.
Today: Offensive line
WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?
Whether it was their work to clear running room for Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen or their ability to keep Mitch Trubisky upright for as long as possible, the beefy blockers on the Bears’ offensive line were the unsung heroes of the 2018 season. And if one year of stellar offensive line play is good, then two is better … right? Starters Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, and Bobby Massie are under contract for the 2019 season. That group was good enough to earn a ranking just outside the top-10, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading scale. Not bad.
Joining the starters are reserves Bradley Sowell, Willie Beavers, and Dejon Allen.
EXITING FREE AGENTS
While Bradley Sowell represents depth with experience, the Bears could lose two key reserves who started important games for the team last year. Eric Kush (who started the year as the team’s left guard) and Bryan Witzmann (took over while Kyle Long was on IR) are unrestricted free agents. Rashaad Coward is an exclusive-rights free agent who can negotiate only with the Bears. If you’ll recall, Coward made the transition from nose tackle to right tackle in his second year as a pro.
WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?
The Bears made a rather heady move by getting Long to agree to a restructured contract that cleared up a few million dollars in salary cap spending money. Long’s team-first attitude helps put the Bears in a position to make the types of moves that would go a long way toward ensuring last year’s postseason run won’t be the last for Long.
HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?
With the starters in place, finding depth is a priority along the offensive line. Because of Long’s injury history, the Bears would be wise to draft or sign someone as an undrafted free agent who can play in a pinch. Otherwise, the team’s next big decision could be to sign Whitehair to an extension. It’s not a move that would help the Bears’ salary cap number this season, but it would help lock in a steady contributor and maintain strength at the position group.