At his press conference, Chicago Bears new head coach Marc Trestman noted that it is his job to keep quarterback Jay Cutler upright in the pocket.
From a scheming vantage point, he may be right, but it will be up to Phil Emery to find the right players to do the job.
The obvious option for Emery, a college scout in his previous life, will be to go through the NFL draft. The draft looks to be strong for both guards and tackles this year, so if Emery doesn’t land a top name in free agency, his best option may be to draft prospects that can produce immediately.
Emery chose not to face the challenge of fixing the offensive line last year at draft time because they wouldn’t get the value for the position where they were in the draft order. He said in his press conference at the end of the season that the unrestricted free agent pool wasn’t very good last offseason either. Well this year’s UFA is full of talented tackles.
Ryan Clady, Andre Smith, Jake Long, and Sebastian Vollmer, along with others, lead the class of free agent tackles. Clady, Smith, and Vollmer will probably be re-signed or franchised by their current teams.
Long is an intriguing name. A couple years ago, he was looked at as a franchise left tackle, but after a series of injuries, many experts aren’t sure if he’ll be the same. The Bears might be able to get him cheaper than if he was coming off a healthy season.
The Bears have four offensive lineman that will be impending free agents, all of which saw time in the starting lineup: Jonathan Scott, Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal, and Chris Spencer. Scott is the only tackle of the bunch and saw time on the field late in the season when he replaced Gabe Carimi. As a free agent pick up, Emery likes Scott so he’ll have a spot on the roster as a backup.
Of the three impending free agent guards, the only one that needs to be re-signed is Lance Louis. Louis was coming into his own early in the season and stood out in the coaching staff’s eyes until he was placed on IR with a knee injury that ended his season.
Spencer and Rachal may still find a spot on this team when it’s all said and done as backups because the free agent market isn’t very good unlike at tackle. Buffalo Bills guard Andy Levitre heads the guard free agent class but there’s a good chance he’ll see the franchise tag this year. Carimi found himself at guard at points in the season, so unless he gets one more shot at tackle, he could be the starting guard opposite Louis.
Emery has a lot of work ahead of him in fixing this line. With the head coach in position, and most of the staff put together, he and Trestman can focus on the free agent market and the draft to make Trestman’s “calendar” come true with a Super Bowl parade next February.