Can Chicago Bears trust Bobby Massie?

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Coming off of an injury-plagued season, can the Chicago Bears trust Bobby Massie to return to full health?

Bobby Massie had a 2019 season that even he would tell you is well below his expectations. The Chicago Bears wound up putting him on the IR with a high ankle injury, but bumps and bruises starting with a missed start in week four derailed a season that can be considered his worst since 2013.

The Chicago Bears just signed Massie to an extension before last season, so they are hoping that he is not just going to breakdown over the next couple of seasons. Still, Massie is going to turn 31 this season, so youth is slowly turning against him. Football is a young man’s game, and at age 30, there is a fair question as to what level Bobby Massie can get back to.

While we do not have a great metric for measuring offensive lineman, we can use approximate value to understand where Massie has been in past years. According to Pro Football Reference, from 2014-2018, Massie averaged an AV of 7 per year, with a range from 6 to 9. That is the type of player you would expect from Massie at his peak. However, in 2019, with his issues, his AV fell to 4.

Looking at AV, we were able to track how offensive tackles have progressed after the age of 30 to look into a potential decline age.

Below is a chart looking into every offensive tackle over the age of 30 from the year 2000 on that had an AV of 7 or higher, the average value of Massie through his prime. The # of average is the number of players who had an AV between 7 and 9, while above-average are players who had an AV over nine, which would be a career year for Massie. You can also the percent drop off from year to year as lineman age.

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So, of the 80 offensive linemen who were of Massie’s caliber at age 30, 64 brought that same level of play at age 31, which 80% of the group who were that valuable at age 30.

What you can see is that most linemen are able to maintain their status through their age 31 season. However, after age 31, the odds start to tilt towards a likely drop-off.

What is interesting to note is that of the tackles who did not fall off from age 31 to 32, almost all of them continued to play at the same level during their age 33 seasons. Of the 51 tackles who were at least average at age 32, 46 were at the same level of play the following year.

However, from 33 to 34 and beyond, we start to see that only the elite players make it to that 35 age marker.

For Massie, this can provide some ambiguity, as he is coming off of a year where he arguably has fallen off already. However, in most cases, it would be expected that Massie can provide the same level of play at age 31 that he has all of his career.

The questions have to start after then, though. Players begin to decline at age 32, and Massie already has the issues surrounding his durability, so betting on him to make that leap may be a tough ask.

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Fortunately for the Bears, they could save nearly $7 million by moving on from Massie in 2021. An injury could undoubtedly come back, or we could see that Massie just did not have the juice to make it through 2020. However, the odds say that the Bears do have a good chance to squeeze one more year out of Massie before moving on before the sharp decline starts to come.