Bears

Bears hire Emery as GM

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Bears hire Emery as GM

The last time Phil Emery was a member of the Bears organization, the likes of Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Olin Kreutz, Charles Tillman and Brian Urlacher were acquired via the NFL draft.

All that is expected now is for Emery to deliver something close to that.

Emery emerged from a field of five semifinalists and two finalists to become the fifth general manager in franchise history, reaching agreement with the Bears on a multi-year contract with the prime directive of getting the Bears firmly into the ranks of the NFC elite.

Emery interviewed Friday with Bears President Ted Phillips for the second time and was then approved of by team ownership as the successor to Jerry Angelo, fired shortly after the end of the 2011 season.

The end-game selection process began with five candidates interviewing with Phillips and other members of the Bears front office: Emery, Jason Licht from the New England Patriots, the other finalist along with Emery; Jimmy Raye from the San Diego Chargers; Marc Ross from the New York Giants; and Tim Ruskell, currently Bears player personnel director. It was not immediately clear whether Ruskell will remain with the organization.

Among the major responsibilities, short term and long, waiting for Emery are the 2012 draft, in which the Bears hold four picks in the first three rounds, and free agency, in which the Bears are expected to be an impact player in search of a wide receiver.

Coach Lovie Smith is in place for this season and is under contract for 2013. Smiths future after this season will be an Emery decision in the future, including whether or not to extend Smiths contract assuming a strong 2012 season.

This will be Emerys second stint with the Bears after working as an area scout for the franchise from 1998-2004.

From 2004-08, Emery served as director of college scouting for the Atlanta Falcons. During that time, two of the three Falcons first round draft picks developed into Pro Bowlers: WR Roddy White (2005) and QB Matt Ryan (2008). Emery also worked as a regional scout for the Falcons leading up to the 2009 draft. The Falcons made two trips to the playoffs during that time including an appearance in the 2004 NFC Championship game.

Emery, a native of Michigan, is a 31-year football veteran, starting his career serving as a student assistant at his alma mater, Wayne State, before joining Central Michigan as a graduate assistant (1981-82). He went on to become the offensive linestrength and conditioning coach at Western New Mexico for three seasons (1982-84) before becoming a defensive line coach at Georgetown College from 1984-85.

Emery went on to serve as the defensive line and strength and conditioning coach at Saginaw Valley State from 1985-87 before joining Tennessee as the Volunteers assistant strength and conditioning coach from 1987-91.

His tenure at Tennessee was highlighted by back-to-back Southeastern Conference Championships in 1989 and 1990. He made his last collegiate stop as director of strength and conditioning services and as an associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy (1991-98), where the Midshipmen won the Aloha Bowl in 1996.

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.