Spencer fit: Tough enough after all

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Spencer fit: Tough enough after all

Chris Spencer right now is the best free-agent signing by the Bears last offseason, and its almost a kind of accident, on a couple of counts. And basically he and Roberto Garza are backwards. But its working. Well.

Spencer was allowed to walk by the Seattle Seahawks after six seasons, having started at center and as a guard when needed. The Bears were looking for offensive line help last offseason but didnt move on Spencer until Olin Kreutz passed on a return contract.

Spencer spent most of training camp at his natural center position, but as the backup because he was behind coming into camp late. Garza was a quick study, developed a quicker rapport with Jay Cutler, and Spencer wound up at guard.

Center is usually the finesse position on the offensive line, the one responsible for calls and typically with being quick enough to help where a protection calls for him to be. Guard is a mauler position; the clich is that tackles make Pro Bowls on pass blocking, guards make it on run-blocking very big people.

Spencer had a finesse (translation: soft) knock on him coming in, not what makes for prototypical guards. He had to first win over a dubious O-line coach.

We teased him about it, Mike Tice said. He said, Whatd you hear about me? I said I heard you were a little finessey.

Its kind of an insult but not really. It means youre a good athlete that doesnt mix it up, but he mixes it up. He gets after it. Hes a good cut blocker and hes a finisher.

He surprised me. I totally thought he was a different style player than I got. Hes been really good with the group, has fit in, and with the fractured hand injury, hes tougher than I thought he was. Thats a tribute to him.

So the Bears have Garza the long-time guard, an acknowledged tough guy, at center. And Spencer the long-time center and need-to-prove tough guy, at guard.

A lot of times the center is a finesse position, Tice said. Roberto is lucky to have some finesse, some power, and still athletic enough to get out in space and pull for us.

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

This is apparently the week of Jay Cutler news.

Reports surfaced earlier this week the Bears are pushing hard to find a trade partner for the enigmatic quarterback, though Ian Rapoport reported the organization informed Cutler in mid-January they were shopping him around.

It seems clear Cutler's time in Chicago has come to an end and an ensuing move is more of a formality at this point.

But apparently Cutler may not even suit up again...for ANY team.

Rapoport reported on NFL Network Wednesday night Cutler is mulling over retirement, even as he's healthy and working out now after shoulder surgery.

"There's no guarantee Cutler even plays in 2017, one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play or not play, retire, walk away. A lot of things at play here for Jay Cutler."

Host Dan Hellie immediately followed up, asking for clarification on the retirement part.

"It is a consideration; it's something he's confided in people," Rapoport said. "But Dan, I would say, it's not a surprise for quarterbacks this age. We've heard [Ben] Roethlisberger talk about it; we've heard Tony Romo talk about it. If it's not perfect, if he can't find the team he wants or the contract he wants, it's very easy for Jay Cutler to walk away."

Whoa.

Cutler, 33, has made more than $112 million in his 11-year career and is owed at least another $2 million in 2017, even if he's cut by the Bears.

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.

Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.

Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.

Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.

Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.

It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

The Bears also announced the additions of assistant coaches Brandon Staley and Derius Swinton II Wednesday morning:

Staley will replace Clint Hurtt as outside linebackers coach and Swinton will be the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers.

Swinton is reprising his role he held on the Bears coaching staff in 2015 before leaving to take a promotion with the San Francisco 49ers special teams. 

Hurtt left the Bears to take a position as the defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Staley spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University, the alma mater of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.