James Daniels - Signed through 2021 - Daniels was eased into the Chicago Bears starting line up, but once inserted at left guard his talent shined. He was an active run blocker and I didn’t have him giving up a sack at all in my Sackwatch this season. He played in all 16 games with 10 starts and I think he’ll be pushing for a Pro Bowl spot next year. He had a very good season as evidenced with his inclusion on some All-Rookie teams. With a full offseason in the Bears strength and conditioning program I’m excited to see what the 21-year old Daniels will look like in 2019.
While I think the Bears have been very clear with their intentions on keeping Daniels at guard, all it will take is one report of a bad snap by Cody Whitehair in OTAs to get fans all riled up again. The Bears wanted the athletic Daniels to play guard because they like to move their guards around on screens and in the power game, but now that he’s acclimated to the pro game I wonder if the coaches will revisit moving Daniels to his college position.
For the record, my stance on changing positions is the same as always, do it as soon as possible to give the player plenty of time to get used to his new job.
Kyle Long - Signed through 2021 - I, as well as several WCG writers, gave our thoughts on Long in this recent roundtable, but here’s the short version of my take. Long stays to man his familiar spot at right guard, and if a restructure is in the works, fine, but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is the first offseason Long will be able to train without rehabbing an injury since 2016 and that will do wonders for his preparation. He’s missed 22 games the last three seasons with various injuries, but the three years before that he only missed one. If Long can shake the bad injury luck, then I think even at 30-years old he can return to Pro Bowl form.
Bryan Witzmann - Free agent - I thought Witzmann played decent for a guy that was signed in October, and at 28-years old he may have earned another contract. His worst game was probably the Giants loss, but he followed that up by helping Chicago’s interior shut down the Rams’ Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. He can play both guard spots, but I’d much rather he not be forced into much starting time if he returns to Chicago.
Eric Kush - Free agent - I gave my thoughts on Kush over in my look at the center position.
Willie Beavers - Signed to a reserve/futures deal - The Bears are Beavers’ fourth team since being a 4th-round pick in the 2016 draft, but this will be the first time he gets to work with Chicago o-line coach Harry Hiestand. I still think he’s a long shot, but Heistand is one of the bets in the business, so you never know.
2019 OUTLOOK - I think finding a guy that can backup on the interior in the draft would be wise. Veterans like Kush and Witzmann are nice to have around, but having a young guy you can develop in your system is a must. I mentioned Iowa’s Keegan Render (C/G) in my look at center last week, but Jacob mentioned LSU’s Garrett Brumfield as a developmental guard prospect in his latest mock draft.
The Bears did move Rashaad Coward to the offensive line last offseason and while he started out at guard, he spent most of training camp at right tackle. But I suppose with the Bears’ recent financial commitment to right tackle Bobby Massie, Coward could get some guard reps in OTAs.
I think the Bears could bring back both veteran free agents depending on money, but at the very least one will return.