Bears

Hillenmeyer: NFL lockout different than NHL's

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Hillenmeyer: NFL lockout different than NHL's

Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears released Hunter Hillenmeyer early this offseason but that doesnt mean that the veteran linebacker and players rep is without perspectives on the current situation involving his sport.

Hillenmeyer, writing on NBCChicago.com's Grizzly Detail blog, draws parallels (and differences) between the lockout of the NFL and the one imposed by the National Hockey League, beginning with the fact that both involved outside counsel union breaker Bob Batterman.

Hmmm.

Both lockouts followed moves to de-certify the player unions, and the NHL players was upheld. Hunter brings in his personal perspectives, formed while he was actively involved in the final days of talks and was witness to the proposals put forward by the players group.

A noteworthy difference between the NFL and NHL situations lies in the fact that hockey owners were hemorrhaging cash during negotiations, something clearly not the case in footballs situation. And Hillenmeyer reiterates that NFL players are willing to accept less than the percentage of revenues than hockey players wanted, and that NFL players will be content with staying with the same deal, under which all sides were making money.

Not to take a side, but its tough to argue with that fact. Not many labor groups have been willing to accept status quo in negotiations, and it may be difficult to see a judge in this case ignoring that fact when the Apr. 6 case comes up for adjudication.

Medically speaking

One of the ticking issues in the owner-player situation is former players and their health benefits. A representative of the NFL players is reporting that a Federal judge has issued an injunction requiring all teams and owners to stop seeking to reduce the worker comp benefits due former players for injuries suffered while playing the game.

And as for current players, colleague Tom Curran at CSNNE.com has established with the NFL that players may in fact see team doctors during the lockout, as long as it is not at team facilities. That follows Tom seeing a story in the Boston Globe in which a team physician alluded to one of the Patriots showing up at his office.

Even the players themselves were off on this one, as the website of the former union laid out as one of the lockout terms that players couldnt see medical staff. For the likes of Jay Cutler and his knee, this is good news, for both player and team.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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.