Ryan Pace’s decision to decline the option on Josh Sitton needlessly creates a big hole in the middle of the Bears offense.
There’s no doubting that Sitton isn’t the player he once was, but he was still better than most other guards in 2017. He was stout against the run, held his own as a pass-blocker and — despite his age and, well, shape — his ability to get to the second level was still top of the league. Sitton is a big reason why the Bears have been among the best rushing attacks in the league the last two years.
Sitton wasn’t cheap. But he wasn’t expensive either. His salary cap hit of $8 million would’ve put him 13th among guards. If the Bears try to upgrade in free agency, they’ll almost certainly have to pay more. Sitton’s ex-teammate T.J. Lang, one of the top guards in the 2017 free agent class, signed for $28.5 million over three years; $7.5 million more than Sitton received from the Bears. Lang’s cap hit in 2017 was $10.9 million and jumps up to $11.7 million in 2019.
The Bears could look to the draft to replace Sitton. Quenton Nelson is a popular name, but using the eighth pick on him seems rich.
[Editor’s Note: It’s not!!!]
But Nelson would immediately be slated to make more than Sitton did and about as much as Long earned in his last contract. And there are other questions about Nelson’s athleticism that need answering going forward.
This draft figures to be rich at guard, and the Bears could nab a starter in the second round, but why not keep Sitton and draft a position of need there?
It seems the Bears are flirting with disaster.
While Sitton missed six games due to injury the last two years, he was still more reliable than any other guard on the roster. Kyle Long is understandably a fan favorite but he’s never on the field. Eric Kush was solid in spot duty two years ago but he’s coming off of a major injury. This could be a sign that the team intends to move Cody Whitehair to guard, but if that means Horrendous Grasu is the center, it’s a stupid plan.
The X-factor in the long-term plans is Jordan Morgan. Although raw, the Bears seemed to like him last year, essentially handing him the red shit. Perhaps they see an ascending player ready to take over. Time will tell.
For now, however, the Bears are looking at a big hole at a place they really shouldn’t be. Replacing Sitton won’t be cheap or easy.