By Bryan Dietzler
A day after the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bears got a little bit busy with their roster and made a couple of moves that may either shock fans or make them think that the moves were coming. One move, the release of safety Antrel Rolle, doesn’t come as much of a surprise while the Bears letting guard Matt Slauson walk is somewhat of a shocker. We will take a look at these two moves, see how they impact the team and see what the future holds for the Bears.
The Bears brought in Rolle last year to help shore up what had been a weak safety position from the years before. He signed a three year deal and with his veteran experience and solid play over the previous seasons made the Bears believe that he was going to be able to shore up that position for at least the length of his contract. Rolle played in just a few games in 2015 as he was injured for a better part of the season. When he was in the lineup, his play was steady but not spectacular. He clearly showed signs of being an older player that struggled at times when he was in and wasn’t that effective. The Bears probably saw this, brought in some youth at the position (through the draft), and decided to let Rolle go.
Rolle’s exit wasn’t a clean one however. He fired back at the Bears and said a couple things that you would expect someone who felt scorned by another person (or team in this case) to say. He stated that the facilities were less than stellar and that the field that he practiced on when he suffered his injury caused his injury. He also stated that he hopes that he goes to a team that plays the Bears this year so he can “bust their ass”. He did have some good things to say about the Bears but his parting shots upset some fans and could have upset the Bears as well.
Chicago has some untested talent at the safety position to replace Rolle so it’s a little odd that that they would put their trust in these untested rookies. They must have felt that Rolle was expendable and let him go thinking that they would give their new guys a chance. This has worked out for the Bears before (last year Adrian Amos started at safety as a rookie and played pretty well all season) so the team will hope that it works out again for them. Rolle probably won’t be missed and the Bears are likely better off without him.
Slauson is a different story. Slauson, who came to the Bears as a free agent a few seasons ago, was a vital part of the offensive line especially last season where he had to step in and play at a couple of positions due to injury. Nothing has been shown to indicate that his play was less than suitable for the Bears and he was an asset to the team. So why would they let Slauson go?
The Bears drafted a new guard, Cody Whitehair and may have assumed that he would be more than capable of playing this season as a starter. With that, Chicago may have thought that Slauson was expendable and therefore they let him go. The Bears must have a lot of trust in Whitehair to feel that letting Slauson go was the right move. The Bears needed to do some work to enhance their offensive line and they did a lot of that through free agency but this one piece in the draft could be all they needed to finish up fixing their line.
Unlike Rolle, Slauson didn’t have any hateful or nasty remarks to make about the Bears upon his exit. He was probably shocked that he was let go and most likely didn’t expect it. I don’t think a lot of people expected it as Slauson was a solid player and a good performer during his career with the Bears and they will miss him. It will be interesting to see how the Bears make up for his absence in 2016. Will they have success or will they regret letting him go? We will find out next season if letting Slauson go was a good move or not.
So the Bears, in essence, by making these moves elected to go younger with their players rather than stick with older more experienced veterans. The Bears have desired to get younger and the youth movement is in full swing as we can tell. Will this pay off or will they wish they had the veteran players back to allow the younger players to grow into their positions and then eventually take over instead of starting right away? Time will tell but one thing is for sure and that is the Bears are going younger and trying to build for the future.