Locating Another Right Guard Option Critical to Bears Line
Rashaad Coward went through college recruitment trying to get schools to take him seriously as a defensive lineman, then after he accomplished this at Old Dominion he found out in the NFL he was an offensive lineman.
Now he's in a similar situation on the offensive line with the ability to play tackle or guard, but which is he really?
Actually, as an undrafted free agent who had to switch sides of the football and then couldn't settle in at one spot, Coward has overachieved greatly and needs to be commended. He was there when the Bears needed help at guard last year after Kyle Long's career-ending injury situation.
Yet, the Bears need something more at this position. Immediacy is the greatest factor in finding a solution, so developing a veteran or rookie isn't realistic.
The guard position was a real problem last year in Chicago, whether at left guard or right guard. They put James Daniels at center first, then moved him back to left guard.
"I think when you look at James, he's still one of the youngest players on our team," GM Ryan Pace said. "He's still developing. I think he got a lot better as the season went on. As far as where we're going to put him next year, that is still going to be an evolution."
At right guard, the decision is even less clear.
Long was their dominant run blocker and line leader. It's not too surprising they failed to ever achieve consistent push on the line in the running game after losing Long. Actually, they really never had him the entire season so it's been a while since they had the impact blocker who will drive opponents off enough for the back to have running room.
In some offenses, tackles are the primary point of emphasis. In the RPO offense the Bears run, the two guards and center are even more important because of the way the quarterback has to stay in right behind them as he quickly reads whether to hand it to the back or pass or even run it himself. A breakdown close to center in the line completely destroys a play.
Using a converted defensive lineman there isn't the ultimate solution. Coward would make a fine swing player and backup to the starting tackles and guards, but the Bears need a dominant guard like Long was before his injuries.
The obvious place to look besides Coward is Alex Bars, their reserve guard from Notre Dame who has the frame of a tackle but has played mostly guard since coming to the Bears.
Yet Bars is also an undrafted free agent who has been cut by the Bears and then put on the practice squad. He is someone who could eventually develop over time to be a player, but isn't there yet.
The Bears need instant push, a player who knows how to play in the NFL at guard and do it well. A draft pick really isn't going to immediately cover this need. Development will be necessary because they can't go through another season without a running attack.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is never going to be Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, but he'll never attain a level he's capable of reaching unless the Bears are able to consistently run much better than they did in 2019.
They need a free agency solution at guard. It's not going to be cheap because the supply of top players is limited.
Here are some of the top options expected to be available in free agency:
Easily the best run blocker of the available group, the Redskins' 29-year-old was a first-round pick in 2015. The Redskins could tag him but with the state of flux going on there, and with the Trent Williams tackle situation unresolved, it's possible he'll leave. He had a season-ending head and neck injury last year but hasn't had a chronic situation like Long seemed to have.
Known as a superior pass blocker for New England, he also can block the run well enough but at 6-5, 308 he wasn't known for mauling people the way Scherff could. The Patriots already rejected trade inquiries about Thuney so it would seem logical they'll sign him again or at least franchise tag him. The tag this year for guards is expected to be about $16 million or more.
Former Chicago area prep player from Marmion Academy near Aurora, he is still young and can play both center and guard. Signing the 28-year-old Glasgow not only would strengthen the Bears, but would weaken the Lions. Whenever you can weaken a division opponent you're taking a positive step. Glasgow didn't allow a sack last year and Pro Football Focus gave him a strong 74.1 grade.
Greg Van Roten
The Panthers liked running in between the guards and Van Roten was one reason. He definitely is not the usual pedigree high draft pick. The Packers first had him as an undrafted free agent and didn't keep him around. He wound up with Seattle for a year, then in the CFL and with Jacksonville but finally caught on with the Panthers in 2018 and has been a starter for the past two years. A dislocated toe landed him on IR late last season.
A much heavier guard than the top four on this list at 6-5, 335 and he's more likely to stay in with Buffalo because the Bills have about $90 million in cap space. He played there on a one-year, prove-it deal after leaving Tennessee and is wanted in Buffalo so it would take a great offer to pull him away from the Bills.
Suffered through consecutive poor seasons, after a solid start to his career from 2015-17. At 6-7, 315 there is the thought he wasn't really a left guard and is more of a tackle. He played both spots with the Saint, who appear unlikely to retain him.