Signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the single-stroke upgrade of the Bears’ offensive line. Not the only move general manager Phil Emery will make (he wants to re-sign tackle Jonathan Scott and is expected to draft an interior lineman next month), but the one with the biggest impact.
But one analysis of the addition isn’t so sure how much of an upgrade it is long-term over J’Marcus Webb. And yet this could be spotlighting a very good thing.
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ProFootballFocus.com’s Ben Stockwell examines not only Bushrod, but also Webb, because the two are connected by more than just the same position group, in some respects.
Using PFF purely as one standard, for apples-to-apples purposes: Bushrod is arguably as close to as good as he is going to get, which is overall very good. The positive that Stockwell gets at, which CSNChicago.com has highlighted previously, is that Webb has gone from a minus-36 grade as a rookie right tackle to minus-16 as a first-year left tackle to basically a grade-neutral left tackle last season.
So here’s something to start worrying about now: Webb is an unrestricted free agent after this season. If, as Stockwell points to, Webb continues to improve as he has, the Bears will have another tackle issue next offseason.
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Tackles cost a lot. So do quarterbacks. So both Webb and Jay Cutler will be up for free agency next offseason. If Cutler is worth franchise money, which the Bears certainly would like, affording Webb at a time when good tackles (which he is trending toward) command $7-8 million per season may be dicey.
But back to Bushrod…
You have to like his simplicity of purpose: “try to give the quarterback a second longer to throw the ball,” as he said Wednesday. Bushrod said he plays at 325 pounds, which is about 10 pounds down from Webb but an upgrade (at this point) over Webb in one key area of evaluation.
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Emery said that Bushrod was exceptional when critiqued on ability to deal with pass rushers coming across his front and dealing with counters, the sophisticated, high-speed moves that produce sacks.
Interestingly, Emery didn’t mention handling bull-rushers, which PFF noted was a sometimes-weakness.
But for 2013, the Bears are better at left tackle and potentially much, much better at right tackle: “Bushrod has reached his high watermark in 2011 and Webb, with fewer years as a starter, has not done that yet,” according to Stockwell.