G/C Manny Ramirez announced his retirement on Wednesday. It was a surprising development that could seriously hinder the Chicago Bears offensive line.
Matt Slauson where have you gone?
In what was a surprising announcement on Wednesday, G/C Manny Ramirez told the Chicago Bears that he was going to retire, rather than play in the upcoming 2016 season. The move was one that nobody was expecting, and one that is going to make Ryan Pace and John Fox closely examine their offensive line and figure out what steps need to be made to strengthen the unit.
With teams working out across the NFL landscape for OTAs the past couple weeks, Ramirez had been working with his new team and something felt off for him. His body wasn’t responding the way it had in the past and he knew that it would become problematic for him if he tried to give it a go this year. He decided that it was best to not try and force anything and listen to his body and hang up the cleats.
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The Bears offensive line now has issues. After releasing Slauson shortly after the NFL Draft, Ramirez became a critical component for the offensive line. He would push Hroniss Grasu for a starting position and if Grasu did win the starting spot, Ramirez would be able to back up at both center and guard for the team. But with Slauson gone and Ramirez retired (and the release of Tayo Fabuluje), the depth in the Bears offensive line is poor at best. Ted Larsen appears to be the primary back-up at guard and Nate Chandler appears to be the front runner to back-up the Bears at right tackle. If something happens to Charles Leno, you would expect Cody Whitehair to move to tackle and Larsen to start at left guard. Larsen isn’t going to be mistaken for Kurt Becker as a back-up guard anytime soon and Chandler has struggled mightily at this point in his career. While the Bears appear set to start Leno, Whitehair, Grasu, Kyle Long and Bobby Massie, having Larsen and Chandler as your primary subs is a scary situation for Jay Cutler if the Bears have any injuries up front.
The Bears are going to have to sign a center or two to battle in training camp for the right to back-up Grasu, but now almost certainly Grasu will have the starting position given to him, rather than earned. The Bears still have cap flexibility so they probably won’t have their offensive line settled until Labor Day when final cuts are made and they are going to have to hope that another team’s trash can become their treasure.
Again, and apparently this cannot be stated enough, the Slauson release appears to be a decision that continues to get worse as the months pass. Now it’s unavoidable, the Bears will have questions on their offensive line heading into week one of the regular season. There is nothing that Pace can do this late in the game to settle the line issues. He will keep checking the waiver wire to see if any other teams make any moves that could benefit the Bears, but he’s not going to find Jay Hilgenberg sitting there either.
It’s early June and there still is three months for the Bears to figure out how to add depth and repair the wounds that the unit currently has. But to be clear, the Bears are in no position to handle any injuries to their starting five, and any injury to one of them (which is almost inevitable) could lead to a very poor player getting exposed and potentially opening Cutler up to hurries, hits sacks and potentially expose him to injury.
The secondary was probably the Bears biggest question mark heading into the season, but the depth of the offensive line may even have surpassed it at this point. This has become a serious problem and one that Pace will certainly address. But at this point with what’s available, is there anything he can do to eliminate the issue? There doesn’t appear to be at this juncture.