Bears

2016 NFL Mock Draft: Never too early to think QB of future for Bears

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2016 NFL Mock Draft: Never too early to think QB of future for Bears

By Josh Norris

Please do not use these “projections” as where prospects were once considered. Mock drafts this early are more for watchlist purposes. "Next year" is not always better than this year. Remember how closely these prospects are evaluated and even nitpicked during the process. That does not happen on live viewing.

1. Washington Redskins - DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State - You will see Bosa listed as an edge player in many places. He can line up outside, but I’ve seen Bosa handled tackles a guards while closed by another defender. He wins with power and quickness.

2. Cleveland Browns - QB Cody Kessler, USC - Of the quarterbacks in first round contention (at this time), Kessler easily was the most consistent in terms of positive performances. His arm is not outstanding, but he certainly has functional mobility and a willingness to work through reads.

3. Oakland Raiders - T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame - You all know how much I love Stanley’s game. I would have ranked him as the top T in the 2015 draft. He can take over for Donald Penn on the left side.

4. Tennessee Titans - CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida - Hargreaves has faced some of the top receivers in the country. He has not always won, but there is obvious skill in his game. Expect him to lock down many opponents this season.

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DL/EDGE DeForest Buckner, OregonArik Armstead was worthy of a first round selection, but there were numerous games where Buckner was the better player. After focusing on offense early in the 2015 draft, the Bucs might shift to defense in 2016.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - DL A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama - The Jags added a much needed edge player in Dante Fowler. They have plenty of young pieces on offense. A long term interior defensive line piece might be their biggest need.

7. New York Jets - QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State - Remember, it is May of 2015, but I do not see how someone can watch Christian Hackenberg’s 2014 games and see a top 10 worthy prospect. Was the situation good? No. Did he make it worse? Frequently, yes. 2015 will obviously be important for his evaluation.

8. St. Louis Rams - LB Myles Jack, UCLA - A complete linebacker who can help in the run, blitzing and in coverage. The Rams could use a linebacker who consistently plays at a high level.

9. Arizona Cardinals - QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State - I am so happy we will have more than two games to evaluate Cardale. After re-watching both, the Oregon contest was more impressive than his game against Alabama. His evaluation is a bit of a mystery right now: will Cardale continue to escape out of the back of the pocket? Can he progress past being a see-it, throw-it passer?

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10. Minnesota Vikings - T Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss - Tunsil suffered a fracture fibula in December, so that is definitely worth watching. Before the injury he was one of the more dependable left tackles in college football.

11. Carolina Panthers - S Su’a Cravens, USC - Cravens makes plenty of plays in the backfield, at the line of scrimmage and at the second level both in coverage and against the run. I would be interested to see how he handles more split safety or single high reps.

12. Chicago Bears - QB Connor Cook, Michigan State - At times, Cook’s inability to effectively handle pressure borders on being a fatal flaw. Hopefully he harnesses the positive reps when he shows good movement while keeping his eyes up. Cook is certainly willing to throw into contested situations.

Check out Norris' complete 2016 first round mock draft at Rotoworld.com

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.