I may be in the minority, but I think the starting offensive line the Chicago Bears will trot out to open the 2016 season is better than the one they ended 2015 with. I know we've yet to see the actual quintet for week one, but I think they'll be better than this group; Kyle Long (RT), Vlad Ducasse (RG), Matt Slauson (C), Patrick Omameh (LG) and Charles Leno (LT).
New right tackle Bobbie Massie may not be as athletic as Kyle Long, but he's a good run blocker and his addition allows the Bears to put Long at his comfortable right guard spot. Over on the left side, Leno should be better in his 2nd year as a starter, and I think the guys the Bears have competing at left guard are all better than Omameh.
Which leaves the center spot. I get it, Matt Slauson was a fan favorite, he had the whole "Punisher" vibe going on, but if we're to take the coaches at their word, he was released because he simply couldn't do some of the things they want their interior linemen to do. The Bears tried to trade him, and not one team valued him enough to send a conditional 7th round pick for his services. I do think the Bears will miss his leadership and his locker room presence, but from a football standpoint, I think the Bears are content with their decision.
The Bears have a few options at center in 2016, but in all, I still like the 2016 five, better than the 2015 five.
But after the starters, things are a bit shaky. Chicago has had two veteran acquisitions retire before training camp even started. Losing center/guard Manny Ramirez and tackle/guard Nate Chandler leaves the top reserves a big question mark. If someone doesn't step up their game in a big way, one injury along the line could lead to chaos.
I would expect the Bears to either sign a guy or two before training camp opens this week, or have an early round of tryouts at camp to add some depth.
The aforementioned Long, Massie and Leno are all sticking around. Rookie Cody Whitehair will push to start at either left guard or center. Second year center Hroniss Grasu, even though some reports have the Bears down on him, isn't going anywhere. He has too much potential to simply spring loose after one year. Ted Larsen, who has been nursing a bad leg all offseason, is in the mix to start at center or left guard too.
A quick note on Grasu. There's really no way to tell if his offseason weight training paid dividends until the Bears strap on the pads and start going live.
A good bet to make it
As the most experienced back up, I think the newly signed Amini Silatolu has the best shot at sticking around to back up at guard. The question surrounding him is his knee however, as two ACL injuries may have sapped some of his explosiveness. If he's 100% healthy and recovered he would ease some concerns about their interior depth.
On the bubble
Last year the Bears opened the season with nine offensive lineman on the 53 man roster. If the seven I mentioned above are all making it, that leaves two spots for these guys to fight for.
Nick Becton probably has the best shot at sticking as the swing tackle for now, but a veteran free agent could change things.
Jason Weaver, Martin Wallace and Cornelius Edison are a few young inexperienced veterans that are hoping to grow into a prominent role. Weaver and Wallace are more right tackle types that could possibly kick inside to guard, while Edison is a center/guard prospect.
The Bears have a few undrafted free agents in camp that will try to impress enough, so at the very least, they can earn a spot on a practice squad.
It's hard not to root for a guy with the nickname 'Kling Kong,' so keep an eye on 6'7", 320 pound John Kling, an UDFA from Buffalo.
Donovan Williams (6'3", 315) is a guard/center and Adrian Bellard (6'5", 308) is a tackle/guard type.
EDIT: The Bears signed OL Dan Buchholz on 7/29
If the Bears add any other offensive linemen to the mix, I'll be sure to edit this article.
What are your thoughts on Chicago's o-line depth?