Former third-round draft pick Hroniss Grasu will be fighting for his Bears career in training camp.
After a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign, one in which he was never meant to play, Grasu suffered a torn ACL during training camp in 2016. Cody Whitehair stepped up and looks to be a terrific player at the center position. Now healthy, Grasu will have to show that he has the positional flexibility to be a backup or perform so well, that he forces his way onto the roster.
Given his relative lack of size and strength, it would appear that center is the only position in which Grasu can excel at the NFL level. But does he have enough skill and athleticism to push for a starting spot on the offensive line?
I believe that Grasu has the ability to be, at least, an average starting center in the NFL. The issue here is that the Bears have arguably the best interior offensive line in the NFL with Kyle Long, Josh Sitton and Whitehair. There simply does’t appear to be an opening in the starting lineup and Eric Kush is a better fit as a backup at guard and center.
The easiest path to the roster for Grasu, is for an injury to occur, or rehabilitation for a currently injured player (Long) would have to hit a snag. If this doesn’t happen, Grasu faces an uphill climb to make the roster, which would put Ryan Pace’s original third-rounder at risk of earning the dreaded bust label.
Experience: 3rd-year pro
Weight: 303 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
According to Spotrac, Grasu’s deal with the Bears is in the third-year of his original four-year rookie contract worth $3,258,919, with $761,919 guaranteed money. His base salary in 2017 is $687,500 with $190,480 guaranteed.
Reason for improvement in 2017
Being fully healthy and having an entire year off to learn the playbook should put Grasu in his best position yet to succeed. He was performing well in training camp last season, prior to his injury, and there is no reason to think that he will regress. I have to imagine that he is going to have a chip on his shoulder as well. Not only from the injury but also from watching Whitehair excel at his position in 2016.
Reason for regression in 2017
Injuries are always tricky and ACL tears are no exception. Grasu should be healthy but you never can tell how an athlete will return from a major injury. Reportedly, Grasu struggled with knowing the playbook as a rookie. Should he still struggle with the mental aspect of the game, his lack of size will be a detriment that he simply won’t be able to overcome at this level.
Final roster odds
I think Grasu has the potential to be a heck of a center in the NFL. My guess is that the Bears believe this as well. They are likely going to find a way to keep him on the roster or, at least, stash him away somewhere. I can easily foresee Sitton being gone in 2018, Whitehair sliding into that role and Grasu as the starting center. I think it is unlikely that Grasu makes the 53-man roster. My guess is that they will try and stash him on the practice squad unless they can red shirt (IR) Jordan Morgan and buy themselves another year of Josh Sitton. Let’s call his odds at about 25%.
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