New left tackle Jermon Bushrod will make life easier for Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense. New tight end Martellus Bennett will, too, and he’ll make life more entertaining, too.
Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, will provide the pass protection and especially the consistency that J’Marcus Webb did not the past two years. And that Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale and Orlando Pace did not in the two years before that.
General manager Phil Emery’s free-agent additions of tight end Martellus Bennett and offensive left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the opening hours of free agency addressed the Bears’ two biggest needs. It also gives them much greater flexibility in next month’s draft.
But Tuesday’s moves may have created another need if there’s not enough money left to re-sign linebackers Nick Roach or Brian Urlacher or Geno Hayes. And, if the Bears also can’t afford to re-sign right guard Lance Louis, their best blocker last season, then they’ve taken two steps forward and one step back on the O-line.
With only seven weeks to go until the draft, it’s time to take a first look at how the first round might play out.
Offensive and defensive linemen will dominate, with running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers being ignored by most teams, who will choose instead to get better in the trenches with players who can protect the quarterback or put him on the ground.
1. Kansas City Chiefs OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Jacksonville Jaguars OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
3. Oakland Raiders DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
4. Philadelphia Eagles DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
5. Detroit Lions CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
6. Cleveland Browns DE-OLB Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
7. Arizona Cardinals OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
8. Buffalo Bills LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
His recent speeding and “weeding” notwithstanding, the much-maligned J’Marcus Webb has actually been a huge bargain for the Bears.
In the three seasons since he was drafted in the seventh and last round in 2010, Webb has started 44 games, including all 32 at left tackle the past two seasons. His performance has been sketchy at best, but he plays the most difficult position on the O-line and he was left on an island way too often by offensive coordinator Mike Martz in 2011, when he allowed an NFL-worst 14 sacks.
Webb’s performance has been up and down, but who among the eclectic collection of offensive linemen the Bears have trotted out in the past three years has been any better? Lance Louis, and that’s about it.
Any NFL team, including the Bears, wondering if it should risk using a high draft pick on former LSU cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, got their answer at the NFL Scouting Combine: “No.”
Mathieu did not play last season after he was kicked off the LSU team, an amazing accomplishment in itself. He has had substance-abuse problems in the past, and his work ethic has frequently been called into question. That was reaffirmed when he managed to bench press 225 pounds just four times.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has some good reasons for the Bears taking Notre Dame’s notorious linebacker Manti Te’o with their first-round draft pick in his latest mock draft.
McShay agrees with most experts that the Bears need offensive line help, but he believes that it’s specifically the left tackle position that cries out for help. The problem is that McShay has the top three blind-side protectors all coming off the board long before the Bears pick 20th.
The uncertainty over the return of unrestricted free agent middle linebacker Brian Urlacher makes Te’o a logical pick, although McShay isn’t convinced that the Notre Dame defender will be an elite player in the NFL.
According to ESPN’s NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who conducted a national conference call Wednesday morning, there are three elite offensive left tackles in this year’s rookie crop.
Unfortunately for the Bears, who would love to upgrade their blind-side protection of quarterback Jay Cutler, Kiper believes all three could be off the board before the Bears pick at No. 20.
Kiper currently has Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel going No. 1 overall to the Chiefs, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher goings seventh to the Cardinals and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson being taken by the Rams with the 16th pick.
After his contract was terminated by the Bears Tuesday it appears Johnny Knox’ football-playing career actually ended about a month after his 25th birthday.
That was Dec. 18, 2011, when he suffered the hideous hit that he has been unable to recover from. It’s still out there on YouTube, if you can bear to watch it. Medical professionals have speculated that if the slight, 185-pound Knox weren’t a world-class athlete in peak condition, the clean tackle by 272-pound Anthony Hargrove might have killed him.