The Head is the Hardest Hit: Briggs, Sayers and the Brain

By Bryan Dietzler

The news for Bears fans in recent weeks has been difficult.  Two of the team’s brightest stars from the past, one from the distant and one from the more recent past, have been rumored to be suffering from head trauma related problems.  Famous running back and Hall of Famer Gale Sayers has been battling dementia for several years now.  Former linebacker Lance Briggs believes he is suffering from the symptoms of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

This is tragic news for fans of Bears everywhere.

Brain trauma in football is nothing new.  It’s been there ever since the first player was tackled in the first football game ever.  And it’s not going to go away anytime soon.  Sayers has been suffering from dementia for about four years now, according to his family, but we just recently found out about it.  They have stated that it has to do with his football career.  Sayers played running back position when he played in the league in the 1960’s.  The running back positon is one that takes a lot of punishment in every single game.  They are, perhaps, the most tackled, hit and knocked down player on the football field.

He absorbed a lot of hits during his career.  Did this have a direct effect on his having dementia?

Doctors have even pointed to the possibility that the hits and shaking his brain have received could have contributed to football players having dementia.  But did playing football lead to Sayers struggles with dementia?

All those years of punishment may have taken their toll.

Briggs played in the NFL for twelve seasons at the outside linebacker position.  Whereas the running back position takes a lot of hits, the linebacker position dishes out a lot of punishment.  But when he’s dishing it out, he’s getting it as well.  His head and brain are being shaken with every hit and all of this shaking causes long term, damaging effects.

He has come to the conclusion that he has CTE stating he has the symptoms of it.  The full, positive diagnosis for CTE can only come post-mortem.

It is easy to see how Sayers and Briggs developed their illnesses.   And both are the most recent in a long line of football players who have suffered or are suffering from the effects of the punishment football can deliver on the human body.

Quite a while ago, I wrote an article about the causes and effects of CTE.  I was inspired by the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, who played Dr. Bennet Omalu.  Omalu was the one who discovered CTE in football players after performing an autopsy on the late Pittsburgh Steelers great Mike Webster.  His work caused a stir among the NFL community and he was called a quack, his work invalid and his findings a lie.  Still, he pressed on and soon people began to take notice of what he had discovered.

And now, today, we realize this is a big cause of what is crippling and killing these former athletes.

There have been some former players, including former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who have struggled and then lost their lives because of CTE.  Junior Seau, Andre Waters and the afore mentioned Webster died because of the disease.

Football is fun for fans, lucrative for the owners and players but it can be costly.  Not every player suffers from CTE though.  The numbers seem to be small but now that we know what to call it, it seems to be more prevalent.  Now that we know what it is, it’s easier to see who has it.

Is there a way to prevent this terrible thing from happening some might ask?  There is nothing that anyone has found yet and perhaps the only way to avoid these this is by abstaining from playing.  That’s not good for anyone.

Along with CTE, you have other diseases of the brain like the dementia that Sayers has been diagnosed with.  You also have ALS.  ALS is another disease that has been attributed to playing football (not exclusively) and there are some former football players that have the disease. Perhaps the most well-known former football player with ALS is Steve Gleason. Gleason has become a role model for those with ALS and had done a lot to try to fight the disease and help those with it cope.

Former San Francisco 49ers tight end Dwight Clark, famous for “the catch” has revealed he has ALS.  The list of players who get this disease is sure to grow.

There are risks to many things that we do in life.  Football, for a very select few, is one of those things.  We, as fans, love the game.  We love the big hits, the long touchdown passes and hard luck make it big type of players.  There is a lot to love about the game and then there is its dark side.  The dark side, with things like ALS, CTE and dementia, are tough to deal with.

I am someone who is praying for Sayers and Briggs.  I was too young to watch Sayers first hand” but I have seen a lot of his film, know his story, have his autographs and have met him in person.  He is a big piece in an even bigger piece known as Chicago Bears history.  And he’s an important piece.

Briggs was not only a great player but also a fun person to listen to and be around.  He has a comical personality and still keeps us entertained to this day.  We remember him as part of that great Lovie Smith defense that made their way to the Super Bowl over ten years ago.  Coupled with his teammate Brian Urlacher, he was part of one of the most prolific Bears linebacker duos in history.

Football is fun but there is a price that is paid.  But is that price too steep?

 

The Chicago Bears and DeShaun Watson: Does it Work?

By Bryan Dietzler

If you have been paying any attention to the workouts and pro days that are currently happening, you may have noticed that the Bears staff is keying in on quarterbacks.  What has made the news the most is the fact that the Bears management, including their top talent experts and coaches, were present at the Clemson pro day to see the workout that DeShaun Watson had for scouts.

Could this be an indication of things to come on April 27th?

The Bears have struggled at the quarterback position for years.  They have not had a quarterback represent them in the Pro Bowl in a long time.  Chicago has failed to have anyone they can really call a “franchise” quarterback in years.  They had Jay Cutler for eight years but both he and the Bears were inept and the “marriage” between the two didn’t work.  He’s now out of Chicago and out of a job.

With plenty of money to spend in free agency, the Bears had their choice of any signal caller that would be available.  But, quite honestly, there weren’t too many available.  So, they signed a player who they felt would be the best option.  That player was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon.  Glennon has been handed a 43.5 million dollar contract and the keys to the offense.

If you know the Bears and how NFL teams operate, you might see that they could be tipping their hand.  Of course, it could be a ruse too.  The theory is, the Bears have brought in Glennon to help be the bridge between next season and when a quarterback they plan to draft is ready to take over as the starter.  It would appear as if the Bears are going to take a quarterback next month, develop him and then let him take over in the future.

Another scenario is that Chicago Bears could wait until the 2018 NFL Draft to draft and then develop a quarterback. This year’s quarterback class is not the best (many scouts agree) so the Bears may want to take a flyer on drafting a quarterback this year and get one next year.

So back to Watson.  With all their eyes on him, is it possible the Bears could be thinking of drafting him in the 2017 NFL Draft?  If so, where would they take him?  Could he be had with the third pick in the draft (where the Bears are sitting) or could they snag him with a pick a little later on?

No matter where the Bears select Watson, if they do, the biggest question is would he be worth it?  If you have watched any of the games Watson has played in or seen any of his workouts, it’s easy to see that Watson is a solid quarterback.  Not spectacular but solid.  He’s got a lot of upside and a lot of potential but still need some development.  He may not be able to start right away but that’s ok, at least for the Bears.  They and Watson can wait.

Watson is a player that can be molded and shaped into a strong future starter given the right opportunity and the right coaching.  Going to the Bears would be the perfect opportunity for him.  They are not going to throw him into the fire right away and should (and probably will) allow him to develop over time.  It might take a season or two but they will have Glennon at the helm and he can manage games while Watson learns and gets ready.

What the Bears may lack, however, is a strong coaching staff that can develop a future franchise quarterback.  The two coaches who will do the most work with a guy like Watson will be offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone.  Loggains does not have a lot of history or coaching experience with any decent quarterbacks.  He worked in Tennessee pre-Marcus Mariotta and was in Cleveland where the quarterback position is always a mess.

Ragone hasn’t had that strong of a coaching career with quarterbacks either.  He has been with Tennessee and Washington but in Washington he didn’t work directly with Kirk Cousins (the starter back in 2015).  His experience with quarterbacks comes from being a player at the position.

So is this a coaching staff that can effectively develop a quarterback?  It doesn’t appear so.  They don’t have a lot of experience with good quarterbacks or that much experience at all in coaching offensive football.

If the Bears were to select Watson in the draft, would they be able to develop him or would he fall by the wayside and end up being a bust?  The Bears have not been known for being able to develop rookie quarterbacks over the course of their long and storied history.  Is it too dangerous to draft Watson for fear that Chicago couldn’t develop him?  Could he fail and the third overall pick this year (if they were to choose him there) would be wasted?

Let’s say that the Bears do have the knowledge to develop Watson. Is he someone who can learn and adapt and eventually be a starter?  He definitely has the physical tools to play quarterback in the NFL but some question his ability to handle the game mentally.  Can he learn an NFL system and be effective?

First of all, time is what any young quarterback needs to develop and he should get that time in Chicago.  He probably wouldn’t see any starts his first season unless there was an injury.  And he can learn the offense, it will just take some time but it will be time well spent.

So, if the Bears have their sights set on Watson, where should they draft him?  Is he worth the third overall pick in the draft?  Can (should) they trade down and get him?

Most experts now believe that University of North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky could be the first quarterback off the board.  It goes back and forth almost every day between Trubisky, Watson and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame.

But Watson could be (and should be) there at number three.   If he is there, should the Bears take him?

The best scenario for the Bears is to trade down and grab Watson in a little bit lower spot.  Depending on who you read, Watson could go anywhere from number ten all the way to number thirty.  If the Bears could get somewhere around number 15 in the first round, they could get him there.  With that, they could grab some additional draft picks along the way.  That would be a huge bonus.

While massive attendance by the Bears’ staff at Watson’s workout could be telling, you never know Chicago’s real intentions.  A quarterback would be nice but is this the draft to do it in?  Is Watson “the guy”? The Bears do need help at quarterback and need to start thinking about the future.

Perhaps Watson is the guy the Bears need, perhaps he isn’t. Either way, they need to be smart about where they get him.  They need to be able to be good at developing him and cannot waste this opportunity.  These chances don’t come around that often.

Chicago Bears History: Their Best and Most Memorable Number Ones

By Bryan Dietzler

The Chicago Bears have been an NFL team since 1920. They were one of the leagues first franchises and are, perhaps, the most well known in league history.  Chicago has won multiple championships, they have sent many players to the Pro Bowl and have the most players in the Hall of Fame o any NFL team.  They are a near model franchise although they haven’t been winning a lot of games these last few years.

Winning games can be helped by key players that a team brings in through the draft.  They can develop thee players and hopefully they will impact sooner than later.  The Bears have had several strong draft picks in their long history, that have helped them win games.  Some are well known while others are not household names.

The NFL Draft first came into existence in 1936.  It was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the site of this year’s draft) and was put in place to help even the playing field for all NFL teams.

The Bears have had numerous number one draft picks over the course of their long history but only just a few have really stood out.  There are those we know very well like Walter Payton, Mike Ditka and Gayle Sayers.  Then there are those first rounders that are not so well known like Joe Gray, Stan Wallace and Lionel Antione.

Of the multitude of first round picks the Bears have had, many are guys that we have already forgotten.  But there are a few that stand out as being some of the best players in Chicago Bears and NFL history.

Let’s look at a few of the most well-known first round picks in the history of the Bears.  Are there any that you feel should be recognized that are not on this list?  Who is the best first round pick in Bears’ history?

If you want to start off with a list of the best first rounders in Bears history, perhaps you should start from the very beginning.  The very first draft pick in the history of the franchise, offensive tackle Joe Stydahar (West Virginia) ended up becoming a Hall of Fame member.  In fact, three of their first six draft picks were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  They include offensive lineman/linebacker Clyde “Bulldog” Turner and quarterback Sid Luckman (along with Stydahar).  Needless to say, the Bears started off their efforts in the NFL draft right.

Their success in the draft early on helped make them one of the better teams in the NFL.  The Bears, led by owner George Halas, had figured out how to draft the right players and make the team a winner.  Halas was one of the greatest football minds of his time.

Chicago had some well-known draft picks in the early and mid-40’s including Michigan’s Tom Harmon, quarterback Johnny Lujack from Notre Dame, and eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne from Texas.  These names will ring bells with anyone who is a fan of Bear’s history.

We will now move to the 1950’s where the Bears had some interesting first round draft picks.  In 1952, they added Miami tight end Jim Dooley with the eighth pick overall.  Dooley ended up being the coach of the Chicago Bears for a while.  Chicago made three interesting picks in 1953, 54 and 55.  They selected three straight running backs (halfbacks) in a row.  Billy Anderson out of Compton Junior College, Stan Wallace out of Illinois and Ron Drzewiecki from Marquette came in order in the middle of the decade.  The Bears were seemingly perpetually unsettled at the running back position.

In 1958, the Bears selected West Virginia linebacker/guard Chuck Howley.  Howley is much more famous for his career with the Dallas Cowboys than with his time in Chicago.  Howley retired two years after being drafted but made a comeback and starred with Dallas.  He earned numerous honors including being named MVP of Super Bowl V.

One of the most popular players to ever don a Bears’ uniform was drafted with the fifth pick in the first round in 1961.  That player was Pittsburgh tight end Mike Ditka.  Ditka has done a host of things with the Bears.  He was a star player, a former Super Bowl winning head coach and a Hall of Famer.  He is loved by Bears fans all over the world and is an icon in Chicago and sports history.

A year after Iron Mike was drafted, the Bears selected halfback Ronnie Bull out of Baylor.  Bull was and still is a popular player in Chicago Bears lore.  He is even a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

Just three years later, the Bears took one of the most fearsome defenders in team history.  Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus was selected with the third overall pick and he wreaked havoc in the NFL for years.  He is a Hall of Famer and one of the most memorable players in NFL history.

But the Bears struck gold for the second year in a row after they got Butkus.  They grabbed the “Kansas Comet” Gayle Sayers and he was a success.  Sayers, a running back, had a Hall of Fame career with Chicago although it was cut short by injuries.  He was the second greatest running back in Bears history many say and many will agree with that.

For the first time in the draft’s history, the Bears did not have a pick in the 1970 draft.  That would be the first of six total times the Bears wouldn’t have a first round draft pick.  The last time they didn’t have one was in 2010 when they gave up that pick to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler from Denver.

Using their first-round pick in 1973, the added defensive tackle Wally Chambers out of Eastern Kentucky.  The twelfth overall pick was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Bears.  He ended his career in Tampa Bay.

The 1975 NFL Draft saw Chicago select their best player ever with the number four overall pick.  That player was Walter Payton.  Payton was anything and everything to the Bears for years.  He held the NFL rushing record for a while, helped take the team to it’s first (and only) Super Bowl championship and is a Hall of Fame player.  The late Chicago sports icon is perhaps the most loved sports figure in Chicago history and is one of the best NFL players ever.

The 1979 NFL Draft brought another Hall of Fame player to Chicago and another guy who would help them win a Super Bowl.  With the fourth overall pick that year, they took Arkansas defensive tackle Dan Hampton.  Hampton, like so many other Bears’ Hall of Famers, is a Chicago icon and one of the most memorable players in Chicago sports history.  “Danimal”, as he was called, spent most of his time in opponent’s backfields and was virtually unstoppable.

Incidentally, Hampton was the last first round pick by the Bears to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The Bears’ first round picks after 1979 had some impacts but none have been considered Hall of Fame worthy, at least not yet.  One that might have a shot at getting in is 1983 first rounder Jim Covert. Covert, an offensive lineman out of Pittsburg had a steady career with the Bears and was one of the best offensive linemen in their history.  He has been touted as being a Hall of Fame player and could earn a gold jacket someday.

The year before Covert was drafted, the Bears selected Brigham Young quarterback Jim McMahon.  The flashy star helped lead the Bears to a Super Bowl victory and became one of the most talked about players in Chicago during his time there.  Although he spent a lot of time on the trainer’s table he was effective and had he been able to stay healthy, he might have been able to lead Chicago to additional Super Bowl victories.

No story about Chicago Bears first round picks would be complete without talking about their number one pick in 1985, Clemson defensive tackle William Perry.  The “Refrigerator” was a “huge” icon for fans across the country during the Bears’ Super Bowl season. Although he was an unpopular pick with defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Ditka loved the rookie and helped make him a star both on and off the field.  Perry was a big part of a very memorable season for the Bears.

Although his career wasn’t spectacular, 1987 first round pick Jim Harbaugh, a quarterback out of Michigan, is notable for becoming a head coach in the NFL and in college.  Some consider him a part of the Mike Ditka “coaching tree”.  He is worth mentioning.  1990 first rounder safety Mark Carrier had a stellar rookie season leading the league in interceptions with 10 and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

In 2000, the Bears selected someone who should be their next Hall of Fame player (providing Covert doesn’t get before him).  New Mexico linebacker Brian Urlacher was a force for the Bears for years.  A true leader, Urlacher was a dependable defender who made a lot of spectacular plays for the Bears.  He was one of the best in a long and storied tradition of great linebackers in Chicago.

Chicago selected Oklahoma defensive tackle Tommie Harris in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and he was impressive although only for a short period.  His career was cut short by chronic injury issues.

The Bears may have found another future Hall of Famer when they drafted Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long.  He has been a consistent Pro Bowl player and could be the best player the Bears currently have.  His future is bright if he can stay healthy.

2016 first round pick Leonard Floyd, a linebacker out of Georgia, is the latest in a long line of first rounders.  His future is uncertain but hopefully he will be able to make a name for himself.  Fans hope that he will have a positive impact like so many of those first rounders before him.

In the future, we will look the worst first round draft picks the Bears have had.  Who do you feel is the Bears’ best first rounder ever?

Bears Agree to Terms with Free Agent WR Markus Wheaton

The Bears have agreed to terms on a contract with wide receiver Markus Wheaton, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

The former third-round pick of the Steelers is en route to Chicago to sign a contract and provides depth after Alshon Jeffery turned down an offer from the Bears to sign a one-year contract with the Eagles reported to be worth $14 million.

Wheaton, 26, appeared in only three games last season as a lingering shoulder injury eventually forced him to injured reserve. He had the best year of his career in 2015 when he played in all 16 games and had 44 receptions for 749 yards and five touchdowns.

“I’m absolutely excited,” said Wheaton, who indicated he learned of the Bears’ interest from his agent Thursday morning.

The Chicago Bears Top Five Free Agent Targets

By Bryan Dietzler

Free agency is just around the corner and so far, there haven’t been too many clear indications of who the Bears may be interested in.  There are some obvious players that Bears fans feel the Bears should go after.  Kansas City safety Eric Berry is probably the biggest named player being thrown out there as someone the Bears should go after.  There are a couple of cornerbacks that keep coming up in conversations including Houston’s A.J. Bouye and Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore.

But remember that free agency is almost as risky as drafting a player.  Some free agents who have played “lights out” football before coming to a new team have arrived and stumbled.  And you tend to spend a lot more money on free agents then you do draft picks.  So, the cost for any failure is much higher.

It’s really “buyer beware” when it comes to free agency.  You must be careful with your money and who you spend it on.  The player could have been an all-star on his previous team but may come to yours and fall flat.  Every NFL team has experienced this at some point over the storied history of NFL free agency.

The Bears have surely set their sights on a few of the free agents who will be available.  We haven’t heard much about who they might be interested in so all we can do is guess at who the might be looking at.

Chicago has several needs at several positions.  They need a quarterback, a cornerback, safety help as well as additional depth on the defensive line.  They have a lot of money to spend having a reported $60 million.  With so many needs coupled with the money they have to spend means that Chicago could be big players in free agency.  Chicago could either gather several players at needy positions or make a splash with just a few big-name guys.

This writer has narrowed the top free agents the Bears should think about going after down to five.  They are in no order.  Each one should fill a need and each player represents the best option, for the Bears, at that position.  The best “fit” if you will.  Look at these top free agent choices and see whether the Bears have a chance to get them.

Eric Berry-S-Kansas City Chiefs-If ever there was a player the Bears needed in free agency, Berry would be that player.  The safety position has been a difficult one for Chicago in recent seasons and he would help shore it up instantly.  Berry not only brings Pro Bowl level talent but leadership and experience to the position.  The Bears would be very wise to go after him.

But there may be some issues with acquiring Berry.  First, he is going to command a high price, perhaps the second highest of any free agent this year (Kirk Cousins would be the first).  Second, he has issued some stern threats to the Chiefs about being tagged.  Do the Bears want to have that kind of player, someone who could be perpetually dissatisfied, on the team?  Could he end up being a distraction?  And age is an issue.  He’s not going to have too many years left in him.

Berry is too talented to pass up.  If the Bears want him then they need to make every effort to do so.  He would make the defense instantly better.  Hopefully he will be a Bear soon.

A.J. Bouye-CB-Houston Texans-The Bears need some help at the cornerback position as the uncertainty there has grown greatly especially after last season.  Bouye was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2016 but his track record of success hasn’t been a long one.  Therefore, the Bears need to be wary if they choose to sign him as a free agent.  If he can prove he can play consistently from last season to the next few seasons, then the Bears should grab him.  He would easily be an upgrade over Tracy Porter.

What they should do with the cornerback position if they do end up getting Bouye, or another free agent, is a story for another day.

Stephon Gilmore-CB-Buffalo-Yes, I have two cornerbacks listed here because both would be a good fit for the Bears.  But, obviously, the Bears would only be able to afford one of these guys.  So why Gilmore?  He is talented and brings some good experience to the position.  Like Bouye, he would be an upgrade over the aging Porter and would give the Bears some stability.

The issue with Gilmore is that he wasn’t consistent in 2016.  While he wasn’t terrible, especially when compared to what the Bears other cornerbacks he has not been overly consistent.  He had a strong season in 2015 but was a little up and down last year.  Can he regain his 2015 form in Chicago?  He most certainly can.  If he can prove he’s going to be consistent then the Bears need to think hard about picking him up.

But with a shot at both Bouye and Gilmore, which one would be the best for the Bears?  That’s too close to call.

Anthony Fasano-TE-Tennessee Titans-The top free agent tight end in the class is Martellus Bennett and he isn’t coming back to Chicago.  So, the Bears should look a little further down the list for a good tight end.  With Zach Miler an injury risk, Logan Paulsen one of the worst players in the league and Daniel Brown still learning, Chicago could look at free agency for help.  They may want to draft a long-term solution and find someone who could play a couple of seasons to help keep the position manned with experienced talent.

Fasano is 32 years old and hasn’t had significant production in the passing game over the last few seasons.  He is, however, an outstanding blocker. If the Bears can have Fasano block (and still catch a pass here and there) while Miller does the receiving, they could find some success.  Throw a draft pick in there, to groom, and the tight end position could be set for at least a couple of seasons.

Russell Okung-OT-Denver Broncos-Okung is set to become a free agent and at the age of 29, there are some that feel he doesn’t have great talent or ability any longer.  They say that age had creeped up on him.  But looking at how he played this past season you can easily see this guy can still play.  He would be an instant upgrade over Charles Leno Jr., and he can play at least two or three more seasons.  Maybe more.

The question is, can the Bears afford him?  How much money will he command?  If the Bears can get him at the right price they should try to sign him but if he asks for too much, they should look in other places.  They could draft a project player and keep Leno, Jr.  Still, Okung would be a nice fit.  They need to consider it, at least.

Chicago will be very active in free agency and are sure to be interested in several players.  Hopefully they can consider some of the guys on this list to help themselves improve for the seasons to come.

Who do you think the Bears should go after in free agency?

The Free Agent Offensive Left Tackle Market

By Bryan Dietzler

If you have been paying attention to the latest news out of the NFL lately, you may have noticed that several well-known players are being let go.  Some of these players are being released due to salary reasons.  Others are being let go because of age and declining ability.  Some have reached the end of their careers and are bound for retirement.

The Chicago Bears need a lot of talent at several positions.  One that you hear mentioned often, and a position that has been much maligned over the course of the last few seasons, is the offensive left tackle position.  That spot has seen a lot of turnover and a lot of “struggle” over the course of the last few seasons.

Chicago had Charles Leno, Jr. there to end the 2016 season.  While Leno was not a failure, he was not spectacular and he is not elite.  He is serviceable though and remained completely healthy last season.  Still, the Bears need something more at the position.

The draft may not be the place to get a good left tackle.  Sure, maybe they could draft someone and then develop them over time but, for the here and now, free agency could be the way to go.  And with the players that are hitting the open market now, the Bears may have some good options.

Chicago may not need to take a serious look at some of the free agent offensive tackles that are (and will be) available heading into March.  But who is available?  Who should they go after?

The following is a list of offensive tackles that should be under consideration by the Bears heading into free agency.  These guys could help bolster the left tackle position even if it’s for a season or two while the team looks for a long-term replacement.  Or, perhaps, they could squeeze even more time out of one of these guys and stabilize the position for the future.

Let’s look at a few of the prospects:

Ricky Wagner-Baltimore Ravens-The Bears don’t need a project at the left tackle position and while Wagner has been productive he hasn’t been consistent.  If Chicago could get some reassurance that he could be steady and play at the same level all the time, they might be interested in signing him.  He would be an upgrade over Leno and could help improve the line.  And they might be able to get him for a good price.

Andrew Whitworth-Cincinnati Bengals-Whitworth is getting up there in age (he is 35) and will not be a guy that plays for too many more seasons.  He could be a temporary addition to the line, at left tackle, while the Bears develop a long-term solution.  He can pass block very well and has been one of the most consistent and statistically competent tackles in the NFL for several seasons.  Could he find a home in Chicago and help, temporarily, solidify the left tackle position?  Whitworth may also come cheap.

Ryan Clady-New York Jets-The Jets are letting Clady walk because he is getting up there in years (30) and has lost a step or two.  He could end up being someone that the Bears are interested in because he can still play.  He could be a temporary fill-in while the Bears develop someone if Chicago would choose to go that route.  But just how long could Clady hold up?  Would he be another Jermon Bushord?

Matt Kalil-Minnesota Vikings-The Vikings have had some success developing offensive linemen and Kalil is a product of that success.  Kalil will be coming off a hip injury but should be fully healed by the start of the season.  Could the Bears convince him to come “down south” and play for them?  He is only 27 years old so he has plenty of playing time left in him.  In addition, with his coming off an injury, he might be had for a less than someone else his age and with his talent.  That could be good for the Bears.

Riley Reiff-Detroit Lions-Like Kalil, Reiff comes from a division rival and could make the switch and come to Chicago, Reiff has been a steady and consistent during his time in the league and at 28, has some time left in him.  Could he be the Bears’ left tackle for the next four years?  Perhaps.  He may not command a high price and could be willing to come to Chicago if he’s the starter.  He would be an upgrade over Leno Jr., and is one of the better free agent left tackles.

Kelvin Beachum-Jacksonville Jaguars-Beachum is a 27-year-old left tackle who has had some injury problems.  Since coming into the NFL in 2012, Beachum has played only one full season.  Last year, he played with a nagging knee injury which limited his effectiveness.  Can the Bears afford to roll the dice with a guy who can’t stay on the field?  Not really.  But if they wanted to try him out temporarily and let someone else develop, they could do that.  But he would have to come very cheap.

You never know who else might get cut and land in the free agent pool. And left tackle is just one of many positions the Bears could use help with in free agency.  And it’s just one of several trouble spots on the team.  Will they fill it this off-season?  We will soon find out.

Bears QB Cutler Thinking Retirement If He Doesn’t Like His Landing Spot

The Bears are trying to trade quarterback Jay Cutler. If they do and he is unhappy with the team he lands with, Cutler might consider retirement, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reports.

“He’s one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play, whether they want to not play, retire, walk away,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport explained on Wednesday’s edition of NFL Total Access. “A lot of things in play here for Jay Cutler.”

The other veteran quarterbacks Rapoport alluded to are Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo, all of whom have contemplated retirement since the end of the 2016 season.

If Cutler is presented with a starting job on the right team at the right price, he will be under center in Week 1. If his best option is to compete for playing time and guaranteed money in a tailspinning organization, motivation will naturally become a major factor in his decision-making process.

Bears Hire Zach Azzanni to Coach Teams’ Wide Outs

The Bears have added one of the final pieces for John Fox’s 2017 coaching staff as Zach Azzanni has been hired as wide receivers coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

More than seven weeks after the end of last season, Fox’s staff is coming together with the addition of Azzanni, which two league sources confirmed to the Tribune.

Azzanni comes to the NFL from the University of Tennessee where he was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the past two seasons. Azzanni has worked for the Volunteers since 2013 and prior to that spent one season as the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin.

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