Change is coming to the Chicago Bears offensive line, and it appears as if it will begin by moving its longest-tenured player out of the lineup.
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— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 13, 2019
NFL Network insiders Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo have been informed by sources that the Bears are sending right guard Kyle Long to injured reserve. It is a move that addresses one of the team’s offensive line problems, as Long’s health issues appear to have caught up to him and made him look like a shell of his former self.
How much time Long will miss while on injured reserve remains to be seen. Long could be placed on IR and return in eight weeks, which could put him back on the active roster by the time the Bears have their Week 15 showdown against the Packers in Green Bay. Or the team could possibly shut down Long for the rest of the year, pulling the plug on the three-time Pro Bowler’s season altogether. In either case, Long’s health (which has led to a decline in his production) appears to have driven this decision.
In the wake of the Bears’ loss to the Raiders in London, we wondered if this was a move that was on the horizon. Long has struggled most of the year, but bottomed out as the lowest-graded player on the Bears’ offense in Week 5, per Pro Football Focus’ analytics. And when the dust settled, PFF had Long as the sixth-lowest-graded offensive guard in football. But even as all signs pointed to a move needing to be made with Long, taking the tip to do it was going to take an extensive look in the mirror after some self-scouting and a re-assessment of things. Nearly a week later, the Bears appear ready to take that step.
We’ll dig into some of the Bears’ replacement options in due time. But before we cross that bridge, my gut feeling says this is the beginning of the end of Long’s time in Chicago. The Bears re-worked Long’s contract in the offseason, but a fourth consecutive season that features time spent on IR further casts doubt on his long-term future with the team. Chicago could cut Long in 2020 before his age 32 season and save $8.1 million (and leave $1.5 million in dead money) in a cap-saving move. But that isn’t a bridge anyone will have to cross until the calendar flips to 2020.
Long gutted it out for some bad Bears teams over the years, so to see injuries take their toll on him during the Bears’ most competitive window is painful to see. And because Chicago is in that window, the decision to take Long out of the lineup and put him on IR was one that needed to be made.