Sounds Like the Bears Are Ready to Move on From Sam Mustipher
The Chicago Bears offensive line is due for a major shakeup this offseason.
Whether it comes via free agency or the draft, changes are coming. There is a belief the Bears will leverage their cap muscle to upgrade the blocking when free agency begins next week. And the NFL Draft has a bunch of intriguing prospects who make sense as possible targets. In other words, it looks like the Bears can go in a different direction at several spots along the offensive line. One spot, in particular, is at center, where movement appears on the horizon.
The Tribune’s Brad Biggs hears the Bears might have an interest in Wes Schweitzer, an interior offensive lineman with experience at guard and center. And it could very well lead to the departure of Sam Mustipher, a three-year starter at center. Here’s how Biggs lays it out:
“Whether he’s in position to compete for a starting job or considered a high-caliber backup — if signed — I don’t know. But keep an eye on Schweitzer and know the Bears are most likely moving on from Sam Mustipher, who started 40 games at center the last three seasons and is a restricted free agent.”
Mustipher graded out 18th of 36 qualifying centers, per Pro Football Focus’ data. In 2021, Mustipher checked in as the 36th of 39 qualifying centers. And in 2020, he was 28th of 36. Not quite what you’re looking for out of that position. And the Bears really haven’t been strong there since Cody Whitehair was at the peak of his powers. So, yeah, I’m into the idea of upgrading that position if at all possible.
Mustipher, 26, has had quite the career in Chicago. He began as an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame hanging around on the practice squad. Mustipher was eventually thrust into a starting role down the stretch of the 2020 season. Remember the injury depleted Bears turning to Mustipher and Alex Bars for in-season help? I’ll give credit where it’s due, that duo helped a patchwork offensive line make it to the finish line and into the playoffs. From there, Mustipher went on to play 34 games — and make 33 starts in the process. To go from practice squad fodder to starting on a heritage NFL franchise isn’t something that happens every day. But this story arc appears to be coming to an end — and possibly soon.
As for Schweitzer, 29, was a sixth-round pick by the Falcons in 2016 — which puts him in Atlanta when Chris Morgan (currently the Bears’ OL Coach) was serving in that role with the Falcons. Sometimes, who you know has heightened importance. And this might be one of those times. It’s not as if Schweitzer’s PFF grades are much to write home about. Schweitzer ranked 27th among centers last year, although he is just one season removed from a 78.7 grade that had him 9th among 82 qualifying guards. The versatility (and familiarity with a current Bears coach) might be what nudges the Bears away from Mustipher. After all, Mustipher is a center by trade who was dabbling at guard last summer. Maybe that’s where this team sees a new fit. Although, I wonder if that would make having Lucas Patrick superfluous? Eh, that’s probably a problem to solve another day.
Even if it isn’t Schweitzer, my read here is that the Bears are looking for depth with versatility and experience. Schweitzer checks those boxes where Mustipher doesn’t. Add on the logical schematic fit of someone who was coached previously by a current Bears assistant just might mean the end of the Mustipher era in Chicago. We’ll see how this shakes out when free agency opens its doors.