It’s never too early to think about the future. And there is never a bad time to think about building an offensive line. So when the two meet at an intersection, you know I’m all about it.
This piece from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano has a load of nuggets entering Week 2. But none more interesting than a note about free-agent-to-be left tackle Terron Armstead.
Fowler hears the Saints are willing to let Armstead play out the final year of an extension signed in 2016, then let him hit free agency. Because while the Saints have made building their offensive line a priority, signing cornerback Marshon Lattimore to a sizable extension could make Armstead the odd-man-out in New Orleans. And because of the contract re-structuring that has since taken place on Armstead’s deal, he could enter free agency without risk of getting the Franchise Tag.
And to that, I say: “Hellooooooo, Bears?”
To be clear, we’ve got quite a bit of time until we hit free agency. But it shouldn’t stop us from keeping our eyes open to possible options and fits for the Bears moving forward. And there might not be a better one at a position of need than Armstead. The 30-year-old has 90 games (86 starts) under his belt. He has made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, a pair of second-team All-Pro nods from his efforts in 2018, and came in at No. 79 on NFL Network’s list of top-100 players for 2021. That type of résumé should put him on the Bears’ radar.
Then again, Armstead figures to be on every tackle-needy team’s offseason wish list should he reach free agency. And because the Bears won’t be alone in a hypothetical pursuit of Armstead, his next contract could rival the likes of Trent Williams (remember when the Bears were after him?) and David Bakhtiari — whose recent deals reset the to top of the market.
The good news is that, unlike recent previous years where cap space has been a tight squeeze, the Bears project to have some wiggle room. OverTheCap.com estimates the Bears will be $42,631,882 million under the cap in 2022. With some creative bookkeeping (think future cuts of Robert Quinn and Nick Foles) that number could still stand to grow some. So stay tuned, as cap gymnastics could still be on the horizon down the line.
In the end, I’m reminded that every offseason has featured Ryan Pace having a laser-focus on fixing something. It usually has been one specific position group. In the past it has been tight ends (Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen in 2017), receivers (Allen Robinson II, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller in 2018), running backs (Mike Davis, David Montgomery, Kerrith Whyte Jr. in 2019), tight ends again (Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, Cole Kmet in 2020), and I think you get the point by now.
It’s been time to focus on fixing the line. And while the Bears made attempts at bolstering the line through by drafting Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, bringing in an established left tackle, moving Jenkins back to his original position, and allowing Borom to develop as a swing tackle who could possibly move inside is a plan that is crazy enough to work. Or, at minimum, one that a team like the Bears should consider following. Especially in the name of protecting Justin Fields.
Sure, it might be a while before we cross this particular bridge with Armstead. But it is good to know where it is so we can start making our way there when the time comes.