Options for Chicago Bears Open Roster Spot

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The Chicago Bears were busy today, adding RB Daniel Thomas and S Sherrod Martin to the roster, while releasing QB Pat Devlin, TE Jacob Maxwell, and K Jeremiah Detmer. Perhaps the most significant result of these bottom-of-the-roster moves is that it leaves the Bears with one open spot on their 90-man roster. Typically when the Bears release a player there is a corresponding addition to the roster. Otherwise why would the Bears release a player who can be a useful camp body? The one exception is if the release was prompted by off-field issues and needs to be done quickly to avoid fan and media backlash (Ray McDonald).

The Bears only filling two of their three open roster spots leads me to believe that they may be in negotiations with a current free agent. Two-time Pro Bowl (2013-14) guard Evan Mathis is the biggest name out there, but there are a handful of other useful players available as well. I will break down some options for the Bears open roster spot below, listed in order of my preference.

G Evan Mathis – Arguably the best guard in football over the last three and a half seasons (missed 7 games in 2013) with a 167.4 cumulative grade from Pro Football Focus. Mathis has excelled in the Eagles zone-blocking scheme which is fairly similar to the blocking scheme that the Broncos ran under John Fox and the Bears new O-line coach Dave Magazu. We don’t know for sure what type of blocking scheme the Bears will run this year, but considering that Fox and Magazu have featured a zone-blocking scheme since their days in Carolina I think it’s a safe bet that the Bears will be zone-blocking in 2015.

That would make Mathis a perfect fit for the Bears and would allow them to move Kyle Long outside to right tackle. According to OvertheCap.com, the Bears have $8.3M in cap room available which would allow them to give Mathis the raise he’s looking for from his $5.5M salary with the Eagles. Signing Mathis, who is 33 years old, carries some risk due to his age and hefty salary demands, but if the new regime thinks the Bears can be competitive this season then adding the best zone-blocking guard in the league makes a lot of sense.

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T Jake Long – The former #1 overall pick in 2008 and 4 time Pro Bowler is coming off two consecutive seasons marred by ACL tears. Long didn’t miss a game his first four years in the league and was one of the best left tackles in football before he started to break down physically. Since 2012 he’s suffered injuries to his back, bicep, and the previously mentioned ACLs, but as recently as 2013 he was graded the 7th best left tackle in the NFL according to PFF.

Long is an obvious injury risk, but is only 30 years old and should still have some good football left in him if his body can hold up. He was an elite left tackle just two seasons ago and if his salary request is reasonable he could turn out to be a steal for the Bears. The NY Giants have brought Long in for two workouts without signing him, so he may not be in game shape yet, but even a gimpy Long is probably an upgrade over the Bears current starting tackles, Bushrod and Mills.