Chicago Bears Free Agent Options: O-Line

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

OT / OG Orlando Franklin – 27, Broncos (6’5 | 316): New HC John Fox is obviously very familiar with Franklin from his time in Denver, so should remember that Franklin was a top 4 right tackle in both 2012 & 2103 (per Pro Football Focus) before switching to guard in 2014 where he ended up ranked as the 12th best guard overall. Franklin is a powerful run blocker, but also a balanced player with top 10 grades at his position in both run and pass blocking. He suffered a knee and ankle injury in 2013 and only missed two games, but it impacted his ability to handle speed rushers and ultimately forced the move to guard. Franklin is a year removed from the injury and should be ready to move back to right tackle if needed where he dominated for two seasons.

Signing Franklin would give the Bears some flexibility, they could keep Kyle Long at guard and move Franklin back to right tackle or move Long to tackle and replace him at guard with Franklin. Both players are punishing run blockers with good football instincts, long arms and a nasty disposition. Pairing them both on either side of the line would give Matt Forte two mauling run-blockers to run behind. Or the Bears could move Long to left tackle, put Franklin on the right side, and move promising rookie Ryan Groy into the lineup. There are multiple possibilities that Franklin would give the Bears, which is why if they only sign one offensive lineman it should be a versatile player like Franklin who can excel at two different positions.

OG Clint Boling – 26, Bengals (6’5 | 306): Three year starter for the Bengals who has been one of the best deals in the league with 3 consecutive top 20 grades at the guard position (PFF) for only an average of around $1M per season. Boling has been very solid for the Bengals during his 4 year career, but seemed to turn it up a notch in the second half of the season once Jeremy Hill took over as the primary running back. From week 9 on, Boling had a 10.3 run blocking grade which would have been in the top ten among guards for the whole season. Boling was considered better in pass protection than as a run blocker early in his career, but once the Bengals based their attack around Hill’s power run style, Boling looked like a different player. With the Bears making a similar switch to a power run game under John Fox, Boling seems like a good piece to add if the Bears are considering moving Kyle Long to tackle. Boling will be looking for a considerable raise, but the Bears could more than double his 2014 salary and still only be around $3M per year.

C Stefen Wisniewski – 26, Raiders (6’3 | 313): Has started at center since the first game of his rookie year in 2011. Wisniewski has been an above-average center for most of his career before a slight dip in production late last season while playing through a few minor injuries. The Raiders have made multiple attempts to bring Wisniewski back, but he seems determined to leave Oakland and it’s hard to blame him. He is an intelligent, cerebral center who is a team leader both on and off the field. The Bears could use some leadership in both places and Wisniewski is also a solid technician at center with great instincts and a natural understanding of angles and leverage. He lacks the power to drive defenders off the line of scrimmage but makes up for it with smarts and skill. Wisniewski is also very mobile with the ability to pull and trap effectively. He’s not a great fit for a straight power scheme, but his leadership, ability to read defenses, and perhaps being able to help Jay Cutler make the right play calls at the line of scrimmage could have much more value than the $3 million per year that Wisniewski is reportedly asking for.

C Rodney Hudson – 26, Chiefs (6’2 | 299): The former 2nd round pick has been a starter for 2+ years in KC and will probably be looking for a raise from the $1.1M he made in 2014. After a solid 2013 (4.4 grade) Hudson had a breakout season in 2014, finishing with the 3rd highest grade at the center position from PFF (13.0). What makes Hudson unique is that he’s equally good against the run or the pass. He isn’t a road-grading run blocker, but he’s solid and helped the Chiefs to the 10th most rushing yards in 2014 while only giving up 2 sacks and 7 QB hurries. He also only had 1 accepted penalty called against him all season. Hudson has developed into a well-rounded center with no notable flaws in his game and is young enough to be a solid leader on the Bears line for the next 4-5 years.

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