This mini-series within a series wraps up today as I take a look at the final offensive line spot for the Chicago Bears, the tackles.
Since there’s so much potential change to come on the offensive line I wanted to recap what transpired a year ago.
Here’s how the Bears opened the 2020 season along the offensive line.
LT - Charles Leno Jr.
LG - James Daniels
C - Cody Whitehair
RG - Germain Ifedi
RT - Bobby Massie
And then due to injuries, COVID related issues, and ineffectiveness, the Bears also played Alex Bars, Rashaad Coward, Arlington Hambright, Sam Mustipher, and Jason Spriggs in the trenches in 2020. Dieter Eiselen and Eric Kush were also active as backups at times last year.
The offensive line went from not too shabby, to a train wreck, then back to not so bad once they stabilized things after the bye week. The only offensive lineman to start the year and end the year in the same spot was Leno.
Here’s how the Bears started their playoff game against the Saints.
LT - Leno
LG - Whitehair
C - Mustipher
RG - Bars
RT - Ifedi
There will be plenty of turnover among the linemen the Bears had on their roster a year ago, so let’s see how things stand right now with the tackles.
Charles Leno Jr. - Signed through 2021 - Technically Leno’s deal expires after the 2021 season, but GM Ryan Pace added two void years to the deal to spread out some of the cap hit, so if the Bears let him walk after 2021 there will be $2.8 million added to their 2022 cap. Considering they’re still paying him after his current deal expires, don’t be surprised if the Bears sign him to an extension.
I know, I know, some of you just cringed, but we’re still talking about a serviceable offensive tackle that isn’t paid a ridiculous amount. And Leno is a much better player with a competent quarterback behind him and a competent left guard next to him. If the Bears sign the 29-year old to an extension, that would lower his $11.3 million cap hit for the 2021 season. He’ll still only be paid in the bottom half of all starting tackles, and the savings would give the Bears some flexibility.
If the Bears do cut him this offseason, which would surprise me, they’ll be on the hook for $5.1 million in dead money, which is why if they do cut a starting tackle I think it’ll be the next guy.
Bobby Massie - Signed through 2022 - According to Over The Cap, Massie has a void year added to his deal in 2023, and if they cut him this offseason they’ll be responsible for $3.9 million in dead cap space. Massie will be 32-years old before the season starts and he ended the last two years on injured reserve. If healthy, Massie is still a serviceable right tackle, but with his age, salary, and injury history, I think he’s gone.
Jason Spriggs - Free agent - Spriggs may get another 1-year minimum type of deal from someone, but I don’t think it’ll be in Chicago.
Germain Ifedi - Free agent - I mentioned Ifedi yesterday with the guards, but I think he could be in the mix for a reserve role in Chicago at guard/tackle. He wouldn’t be able to play left tackle, but on the right side he’s serviceable.
Lachavious Simmons - Signed through 2021 - Simmons was promoted to the active roster for week nine, but he then landed on the COVID/Reserve list before the morning of the game. Once activated off that list he stuck on the 53-man roster but was inactive each week. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot in 2021, but if the Bears upgrade like they should upgrade, he’ll likely end up back on the practice squad.
Badara Traore - Signed through 2021 - He’ll be a practice squad candidate next year.
2021 OUTLOOK - Here’s the issue with cutting a starting player on your team... if there’s not a ready made replacement on the current roster then you’re forced to pay a starter in free agency. Or if you really think you can find a guy in the draft, then you’re caught drafting for need and hoping the rookie can win the starting job.
There are some quality tackles the Bears could snag with that 20th overall pick — if they don’t trade it away — like Christian Darrisaw from Virginia Tech, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, or Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins, but the depth in this class should also have players available in the second round too. Dillon Radunz from North Dakota State and Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg could be in play for the Bears at 52 in the second round.
Regardless on who the Bears keep or cut this offseason, they better go offensive line at least once in the first three rounds this year as the quality of depth on the team is lacking. I would love to see the Bears invest two early picks in the trenches for a change.
The Bears could bring Germian Ifedi back to man that right tackle spot as insurance in case a rookie isn’t ready to step in day one, but he’s not a clear upgrade over Massie. He played fine after moving over from right guard, where he started most of the season, but if the Bears re-sign him as a right tackle they’ll probably have to pay him as a right tackle. I think Ifedi should return, but as a swing player for the right side. If another team is prepared to pay him starter money I think the Bears let him go.
With the salary cap dropping this year there could be a few veterans released that could be looking for opportunities, and if there’s a clear upgrade the the Bears need to be ready to pounce.
What do you think the Bears do at offensive tackle this offseason?