I’m going to get this out of the way before you jump all over me.
Yes, I understand the Chicago Bears have an obvious need to find a long-term quarterback solution. However, they shouldn’t settle for a prospect they don’t love. That would be a mistake. Far too often we’ve seen teams take quarterback prospects way too high, throw them to the wolves, and further complicate the organization’s problems. More to the point of this specific post, Chicago draft a lesser-caliber quarterback at the expense of passing on a high-end offensive line prospect. Because this draft class is shaping up to be a good one for teams needing help on the line of scrimmage.
In his latest big board release, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has nine (!!) offensive linemen among his 32 highest-ranked prospects. Or to put it in a different light, Miller’s big-board currently features nine first-round caliber offensive linemen. That’s an eye-opening number.
(2) Penei Sewell, Oregon (OT-1, OL-1)
(11) Samuel Cosmi, Texas (OT-2, OL-2)
(12) Rashawn Slater, Northwestern (OT-3, OL-3)
(21) Wyatt Davis, Ohio State (OG-1, OL-4)
(26) Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech (OT-4, OL-5)
(27) Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC (OG-2, OL-6)
(30) Trey Smith, Tennessee (OG-3, OL-7)
(31) Alex Leatherwood, Alabama (OT-5, OL-8)
(32) Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame (OT-6, OL-9)
Hellooooooo, Bears? You seeing this!?
Even if Sewell (Oregon) figures to be off the board within the first five picks, it’s important to note the potential impact talent that could be available at spots where the Bears could draft. So with that in mind, it’s OK to get acquainted with tackles such as Cosmi, Slater, Darrisaw, Leatherwood, and Eichenberg. And while I’m hesitant to draft interior linemen in the first round, I like to keep an open mind. That means Davis, Vera-Tucker, and Smith are prospects worth keeping tabs on once we shift our full focus to the draft.
Even with an improved performance in Week 12, there’s no denying Chicago’s need to address the offensive line. Because while Cody Whitehair and James Daniels appear to be locks for jobs in 2021, three other spots on the line could be up in the air.
To be fair, the Bears could have something at center with Sam Mustipher. But he has just two games of starting experience, so even if he finishes the year strong, he’s no sure thing moving forward. And then there’s the tackle position. For whatever it’s worth, Chicago could also clear up cap space by parting ways with either of its starting tackles. And for the Bears, the additional financial flexibility and fresh blood at the position could be valuable.
Charles Leno Jr. is the longest-tenured member of the line, but OverTheCap.com estimates the team could create $6.2 million in cap space if they part ways with him in the offseason. Cutting Bobby Massie would clear up $5.4 million in cap space. Moving on from either come with a notable sum of projected dead money. Releasing Leno comes with a $5.1 million dead-money hit, while Massie’s is a bit lighter at $3.9 million. Either way, it’s something the cap-strapped Bears could consider after the season.
Again, don’t get me wrong. Quarterback is the most important position in the game, and addressing it properly would go a long way toward solving Chicago’s problems. On the other hand, strong offensive tackle play is the second most important component in building a football team. Hence, I’m interested in all of the linemen prospects mentioned above. And the Bears should be, too.