Bears

Prediction: Will Mitchell Trubisky end his 2017 season on a high note?

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USA Today

Prediction: Will Mitchell Trubisky end his 2017 season on a high note?

Mitchell Trubisky’s first four starts in the NFL came against a run of top-level, playoff-caliber defenses, beginning with the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 9. That game ended for the Bears rookie when Vikings safety Harrison Smith baited him into an ill-timed aggressive throw just before the two-minute warning. 

Starting with that Minnesota game, Trubisky faced the Nos. 3, 1, 8 and 7 defenses (by Football Outsiders’ DVOA) in October; a month later, he faced the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 5 defense. While John Fox and Dowell Loggains kept the gameplans conservative/controlled/limited for Trubisky, a sizable segment of Year 1 was trial by fire for him. 

Trubisky completed 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards against Minnesota on Oct. 9, throwing that interception but also recording his first career touchdown (though it was on another aggressive pass that safety Anthony Sendejo deflected). Sunday’s season finale represents another crack at the Vikings for Trubisky, though he struggled in his second go-around against the Detroit Lions earlier this month. 

“Just from the experience I've gotten since the last time we played them hopefully the game will slow down for me a little bit, I'll be able to see things a little better and then just open up in the pass game more,” Trubisky said. “But it's going to be up to us on offense just to go out there and execute because they've got a really good defense, so we just have to go out there and execute, play our game plan, keep our defense off the field and convert and find ways to score.”

Disappointing for Trubisky is that he may not have Adam Shaheen (chest, questionable) active for the third consecutive week; Shaheen played only 11 snaps in Trubisky’s debut Oct. 9. That relationship still needs to grow, but may have to wait to re-start until OTAs and offseason workouts. 

So more than anything, Sunday’s trip to Minneapolis will be another notch of experience for Trubisky, and that’s positive even if it’s a slog against a division-winning defense that still has something to play for. 

Prediction: Vikings 23, Bears 14

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.