How important is the O-line? How 'bout "playoff-important"

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How important is the O-line? How 'bout "playoff-important"

The upgrading of the Bears offensive line, whether through free agency or the draft, possibly both, is expected to be the primary task in Phil Emerys second offseason as general manager. He said as much twice while detailing the hiring of coach Marc Trestman.

Emery referred to evaluations by STATS Inc. that placed the Bears 26th, which tells me weve got to get better, Emery said. Weve got to get better. I look at that from the perspective: how does that impact winning?

The analysts at ProFootballFocus.com offer a similar assessment, placing the Bears O-line 30th among the NFLs front fives. And while no statistical ranking usually offers a definitive simple arrow pointing to success, PFFs analyses underscore Emerys conclusion.

Interestingly, left tackle JMarcus Webb was the choice as Stud, or in this case the least-bad lineman (none had positive grades for the season). Webb took a substantial step up in 2012 and is described as an adequate left tackle with the note, you can win with those.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi was the designated Dud and on the path to Bustville. Based on 2012, the final No. 1 pick of Jerry Angelo will not have a lot of supporters going into this years training camp.

The winning impact

The role of an offensive line in success certainly doesnt need any belaboring. But a correlation of rankings with NFL results in 2012 is worth noting.

The bad Cleveland Browns ranked fifth, but that includes left tackle Joe Thomas, one of the NFLs elite. The woeful Kansas City Chiefs were 12th.

But only three of the NFLs playoff teams (Seattle 20th, Green Bay 21st, Indianapolis 31st) rank worse than 17th, which is Baltimore. The Colts and Bears do demonstrate that you can be a winning, even playoff, team without an elite offensive line.

However, all three of those sub-17th offensive lines had Pro Bowl quarterbacks behind them (Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson). Seattle and Green Bay also had top-11 scoring defenses.

As Ive noted previously, Emery in fact did some addressing the offensive line. For instance, had he drafted James Brown in, say, the fourth round (where Brown was widely projected to go), and Brown ended the season starting (he did), some of the criticism might have been less strident. And he picked up eventual Carimi replacement Jonathan Scott just after the season started, which is actually something of an accomplishment, finding a serviceable player among NFL discards.

What the Bears invest in the offensive line this offseason will be more than signing discards and undrafted rookie free agents.

Bears announce additions to John Fox's coaching staff

Bears announce additions to John Fox's coaching staff

The Bears announced Monday several additions to John Fox's coaching staff in 2017.

Roy Anderson has been hired as the assistant defensive backs coach, Curtis Modkins has been named the new running backs coach and Jeremiah Washburn is the new offensive line coach. The team also announced that outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt's contract was not renewed.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Anderson was the assistant defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers last season, and spent his previous seven years with the Indianapolis Colts (2012-15) and Baltimore Ravens (2009-11). He replaces Sam Garnes.

Modkins has 22 years of coaching experience, and also spent the 2016 season with the 49ers as the team's offensive coordinator. His previous stops include the Detroit Lions (2013-15), Buffalo Bills (2010-12), Arizona Cardinals (2009) and Kansas City Chiefs (2008). Modkins replaces Stan Drayton.

Washburn served as the Miami Dolphins assistant offensive line coach last season, and spent his previous 14 years with the Lions (2009-15), Ravens (2003-08) and Carolina Panthers (2002). He replaces Dave Magazu.

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

If you haven't heard, the Bears are in the market for a quarterback.

It's no surprise that finding a long-term solution at the position will be at the top of GM Ryan Pace's to-do list as it's likely Jay Cutler has played his last game in a Bears uniform.

The Bears have a bevy options this offseason as they're saddled with the No. 3 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and have over $54 million of salary cap space — before roster cuts and an added $8 million in roll over money.

Having the 3rd overall pick, the opportunity is going to present itself for the Bears to nab one of the draft's top quarterbacks or add to their young defensive core with a player like Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen (who ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bears selecting in his latest mock draft) or LSU's Jamal Adams (Kiper Jr. also has him as a possibility for the Bears).

If quarterback is the choice, that's where the real debate begins.

The 2017 draft marks one of the rare years where there isn't a consensus No. 1 quarterback. The four signal-callers likely to hear there name called within the first two rounds are UNC's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.

Who comes off the board first? That may change 100 times between now and Thursday, April 27.

Despite only starting one year at Chapel Hill, Trubisky has the strongest case to be the first quarterback taken. Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns and added 308 yards on the ground and five rushing scores in his first full year as a starter in 2016.

If the Bears have their eyes set on Trubisky, they may have to pull off a trade as Kiper Jr. doesn't see the former Tar Heel lasting to the third pick. In his conference call on Thursday, Kiper Jr. said it's Trubisky's dream to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns, and sees him in play for both the Browns at No. 1 and the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2.

Would the Bears pull the trigger on Watson if Trubisky is off the board? Kiper Jr. believes Watson would be a stretch for the Bears at No. 3 and right now he sees Watson as a fit with the Buffalo Bills at No. 10. Kiper Jr. had a second-round grade on Watson before he shined on the big stage in the College Football Playoff. Watson's stock catapulted back into the first-round mix after he torched Alabama for 463 yards and four touchdowns en route to leading Clemson to a National Championship.

By selecting a defensive player at No. 3, the Bears could still have the opportunity to draft their quarterback of the future in the second round. Kiper Jr. believes both Mahomes and Kizer will be available on Day 2 where the Bears hold the 34th overall selection in the draft.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What happens if the Bears don't come away with one of the draft's top quarterbacks? They could look toward free agency or the trade market.

The downfall of the free agent market is that the best available option is former Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon — he hasn't started a game in almost three years. You can cross Kirk Cousins off the wish list because there's a better chance of Brett Favre coming out of retirement and leading the Browns to a Super Bowl in 2017 than the Washington Redskins letting Cousins walk in free agency. The Bears also could elect to bring back two of their own unrestricted free agents in Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, but neither would provide an ample long-term fixture at the position.

One of the most intriguing players available on the trade market is New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The connection between him and the Bears runs deep as Garoppolo starred at Rolling Meadows High School in the Chicagoland area and played his college football at Eastern Illinois — the same alma mater as Pace — before he was selected by the Patriots in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In limited snaps backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo has shown potential to be an above-average NFL quarterback, but unless the Patriots step down from their rumored asking price of a 2017 first-round pick and more, trading away the No. 3 pick would be too high of a price for the Bears to pay.

The Bears could explore the possibility of trading for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to serve as a stopgap and help groom a young quarterback, but bringing in the veteran Romo — just four starts since 2014 due to various injuries — would be a lateral move, and the Bears would likely be better off keeping Cutler for another season.

With less than two months until the start of free agency on March 9, we'll finally get our first clue then as to which direction the Bears will go at quarterback this offseason.