Martellus Bennett may have sabotaged options for Bears, himself


Martellus Bennett may have sabotaged options for Bears, himself

The Bears and Martellus Bennett are expected to be ending their association after the productive tight end successfully agitated for a chance for his agent to explore trades elsewhere.

But in the process, Bennett’s actions may boomerang and cost him both money and opportunity, making it harder for the Bears to trade him and for agent Kennard McGuire to find a taker.

Bennett refused to attend any of the Bears’ voluntary offseason programs last year. People noticed. Without saying so publicly, a handful of teams have removed Bennett from possible roster consideration.

[MORE: Bears beginning to narrow in on free agent target needs]

A handful of case studies should have shown Bennett what can result from different actions intended to force a change.

Consider several recent Bears-specific examples:

Thomas Jones

After the 2005 season, concluding that the Bears were committing to Cedric Benson, running back Thomas Jones demanded a trade. Then-GM Jerry Angelo, with Jones agent Tom Condon facilitating, had one in place, one that would have sent Jones to a team that would be the AFC entry in a Super Bowl very shortly.

But Jones abruptly changed agents and was advised to boycott the Bears’ offseason program. The trade offer, from a prominent AFC team executive, evaporated immediately. Jones was traded to the New York Jets the next year.

Jared Allen

As last season opened, for all of the offseason effort put in attempting the transition, it was painfully clear to Jared Allen that he was not getting it done in the Bears’ 3-4 defensive scheme. After the Seattle game, Allen talked to the Bears and was open to agent Ken Harris working something out with a handful of teams acceptable to Allen.

One of those teams was the Carolina Panthers. The Bears received a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. Allen retired with an NFC Championship ring and trip to a Super Bowl.

Jon Bostic

Like Allen, Bostic was not working out in the Bears’ 3-4, not stout enough to hold onto one of the inside-linebacker spots and not with pass-rush skills to compete on the outside. Despite back problems that started during the 2014 season and kept Bostic largely out of the 2015 offseason programs, Bostic was a regular around Halas Hall.

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots traded a sixth-round pick to the Bears in September for Bostic, who didn’t get a ring, was inactive in the postseason, but did cash two playoff-round checks.

One note here: Simply because Bennett was/is under contract shouldn’t be held against him whatsoever. Public outcry is swift with, “But he’s under contract” when a player holds out. But as Brian Urlacher once put in clear, simple terms, nobody seems to mind when teams cut players with time still left on contracts. “Contract” is a very fluid term in the NFL.

But holdouts aren’t always good business.

Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?


Early 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Who would Bears take?

It may be too early for projecting the 2017 NFL Draft, but it can't hurt to look ahead.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris released his mock draft on Thursday for next year's draft.

According to Norris, if the Bears finished in the order of their Super Bowl LI odds, Ryan Pace & Co. would hold the No. 12 pick.

Their selection? Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

Norris gives his explanation of the pick:

"My personal favorite running back in the class. Cook’s market share of FSU’s rushing yards and percentage of 20-plus yard runs last year was ridiculous."

Also in the first round, Norris has five Big Ten players projected to land in the first 32 picks.

Click here to check out Josh Norris' full 2017 mock draft.

Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line


Bears need to find solidarity on revamped offensive line

Overshadowed in the aftershocks of the Bears’ release of veteran guard Matt Slauson (and safety Antrel Rolle) was another roster trim this offseason that went largely ignored because four days earlier, the Matt Forte non-return had gone down. That was the release of Jermon Bushrod, as much a fixture for two years at left tackle as Slauson was at left guard.

Probably because Bushrod had been replaced by Charles Leno Jr. last season as the starter, Bushrod’s exit had been expected since mid-year as he struggled with injuries. Bushrod had voiced his own farewell address late in the season.

But Bushrod, as with Slauson, was a core member of a group that arguably needs to be closer-knit than any other position group. Bushrod and Slauson were mentors to Kyle Long and to even Leno as he was replacing Bushrod, if anyone needs a character testimonial.

While coaches and GM Ryan Pace are on record stating that the best five offensive linemen will start, which points to positions for each being determined through this offseason, that also demands cohesion, which the group had with Bushrod and Slauson.

Bears history is replete with solid centers who anchored and fused lines together: Jay Hilgenberg, Jerry Fontenot, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, even Bulldog Turner and Mike Pyle, looking further back. One key was that each was the best lineman in the group, or close to the best. That makes leading easier, when you’re secure and very good.

Hroniss Grasu is neither at this point of his career. Manny Ramirez is a new guy and on a one-year deal at age 33. Meaning: Who is the linchpin of an offensive line on whom the healths of Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford and others rest? Kyle Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman and a force in more ways that just talent-wise.

The challenge for the Bears projects to be less finding talent to replace Slauson in particular, but finding the individual and collective character to make the whole thing work. This is about more than just the 2016 season.

After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?


After Bears release Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson, question looms: Who else?

Just as the draft selections of guard Cody Whitehair heralded the Chicago end for Matt Slauson, and safeties Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson brought in alternatives to Antrel Rolle – both vets let go sooner rather than later – an obvious question hanging fire right now in the wake of other draft picks and signings is, “Who else?”

One expectation this offseason is that the Bears would make a difficult decision on rush-linebacker Lamarr Houston, who’s due $6 million this year and next and $8 million for 2018. That situation won’t stand as-is.

The final year of Willie Young’s contract calls for $2.5 million this season. That’s only slightly less than the $2.9 million Slauson was due for 2016 and that was rendered expendable by the Whitehair draft selection and the signings of Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez.

In the Houston-Young cases, the Bears used a No. 1 pick on Leonard Floyd, a Young-type edge rusher. They used a No. 3 pick on Jonathan Bullard, a 290-pound defensive end with size-rush blend that Young doesn’t have. The Bears re-signed Sam Acho, who doesn’t give the Bears what Houston does as an edge rusher, but Houston doesn’t do anything on special teams, the roster entrée for non-starters.

Then there is the matter of Eddie Royal, with an injury speckled 2015 injury resume’ that defines “vulnerable” for player at age 30 and carrying a $4.5 million salary for 2016. What little the Bears did draft-wise on offense included diminutive wideout Danny Braverman in the seventh round.

Teams don’t make roster decisions based on seventh-round picks before the first minicamp. But Braverman, who led all FBS schools in receptions last year, is 5-10, around 180 pounds.

Forget the knee-jerk comparisons to Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Wes Welker just because they’re little white guys (and why is it that people grab those instant so-called comparables based on skin color? For another time.)

But NFL slot receivers in the Braverman mold include Seattle’s undrafted Doug Baldwin (5-10, 189, also a Florida native like Braverman); Randall Cobb (5-10) up in Green Bay, a No. 3 slot guy his first three NFL seasons; Jamison Crowder, a true smurf at 5-8 who caught 59 passes for Washington as a rookie.

Braverman does not make Royal roster-surplus the way Whitehair did Slauson, or Bush did Rolle, or Floyd makes Houston or Young (whom the Bears reportedly tried to trade during the draft). And Royal was banged up in part because he was thrust into a starter role by the injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White.

But numbers on depth charts and salary cap balance sheets force decisions. And the surprise of the offseason would be if the Bears were done making theirs.