Bears

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 3.0: Bears wavering on Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson?

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft 3.0: Bears wavering on Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson?

The problem with “news” this time of NFL year is that information is easy; what is decidedly not easy is determining with any certainty exactly in what direction the trail of breadcrumbs is actually leading.

So it is with myriad teams and players, and very specifically the Bears and the No. 11 pick of the draft coming up two weeks hence. CSNChicago.com’s “Mini-Mock Draft” is positing the Bears selecting Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson with that pick, but isn’t feeling super-great about it, and now is owning up to the inevitable second, third and fourth thoughts, largely in the direction of either Georgia’s Leonard Floyd or Clemson sack terror Shaq Lawson.

Here’s the thinking:

NFL teams are permitted to host up to 30 visits with prospects. The Bears have had multiple drop-in’s, ranging from Lawson to Emmanuel Ogbah to Jarran Reed to and-so-on. The tilt toward defense (with multiple pass rushers in the 255-275-pound range in for visits) has been, at the very least…suggestive.

(Then again, the Denver Broncos in 2006 never showed any particular interest in a quarterback, never had that one from Vanderbilt in for a visit or special workout or meeting, then surprised the NFL by trading up from 15 to 11 to grab Jay Cutler. The Bears have had Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in for a visit, just for the record.)

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The twin factors of need and best-available have pointed toward Robinson as the Bears’ pick at 11, given the 3-4 defensive-line situation with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks in place but Ego Ferguson coming off season-ending knee surgery.

Robinson, having had private time with Carolina, Detroit, Pittsburgh and the Jets, but not known to have done the same with the Bears, may be a case of a team like Chicago not wishing to tip its hand as far as interest but that’s endemic to the pre-draft run-up.

Are the Bears doing with Robinson, or Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, what the Broncos once did with Cutler? And besides the Bears, who else is practicing the ancient art of “which shell hides the defensive tackle?”

CSNChicago.com’s “Mini-Mock” is staying the course on Robinson to the Bears – for now. Because they are canvassing the front-seven neighborhood looking at options. And because Floyd and Lawson are seriously good at pass rushing, which too few Bears are.

Every NFL team has its draft board, ranking the upcoming candidates for the year’s selection process that begins Thursday, Apr. 28. Those grades can fluctuate based on private workouts, pro days, uncovered information and any number of factors that emerge on a weekly - sometimes daily - basis.

[MORE: Bears OL competition scenarios intensifying as draft approaches]

Accordingly, CSNChicago.com publishes its timely, up-do-the-latest “Mini-Mock” draft every Thursday, culminating the day of the 2016 first round. “Mini-Mock” will target the Top 15 picks of the draft, the range in which the Bears reside (No. 11). “Mini-Mock” also will incorporate all the latest mock-draft predictions for the Bears’ pick, news, reports, information from pro days and workouts, and relevant available data, as well as specific updates on selected other significant draft prospects.

Reflecting some shuffling in the Top 10:

Moon's Mini-Mock NFL Draft

1. Los Angeles Rams: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Comment: Teams usually make deals like Rams’ trade-up only for a QB. Exactly which one Rams will grab is TBD but Wentz has people recalling Terry Bradshaw, another small-school hit at No. 1 overall.

2. Cleveland Browns: Laremy Tunsil, T, Mississippi

Comment: Rams likely expected Browns to take a QB; hence the trade-up. Browns have hopes for RGIII, can trade Joe Thomas and add his successor right now, although Jared Goff will be tempting here.

3. San Diego Chargers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Comment: CB Jalen Ramsey rising on some boards, could go here, but elite DL talent is more prized, and Buckner considered elite. Team wanting QB could trade up to here for Goff.

4. Dallas Cowboys: Jared Goff, QB, California

Comment: ‘Boys have had private’s with six different QB’s plus meetings with multiple others. Over past three seasons, they were 1-13 in games without Tony Romo, 1-11 last year. Dallas desperately needs a successor in the pipeline.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State

Comment: Look for OSU RB Ezekiel Elliott to start dropping. Ramsey is a Top 5 talent and 15 of Jags’ first 18 player visits were on defense. Those included OSU’s Joey Bosa but Ramsey too good to pass up.

6. Baltimore Ravens: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Comment: Had projected Myles Jack here but Terrell Suggs turns 34 in-season and Bosa offers more pass-rush flexibility.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Comment: Chip Kelly wants a franchise QB to start his makeover with and Cook is more mobile and accomplished in more areas than some of the bigger names. Surprise pick here.

.8. Philadelphia Eagles: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Comment: April 1 Pro day performance dispelled knee concerns for many and could move Jack Top 5. Every team covets his skill set on top of good football character, but safer health picks will go first.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida 

Comment: Mini-run on DB’s? Brent Grimes settles one CB spot but Hargreaves best-available if Bucs don’t grab ‘Bama’s DT Robinson or go OL with Jack Conklin or Ronnie Stanley.

10. New York Giants: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Comment: First 5 FA signings were on defense. G’ints shopped for FA OT’s but this is chance to get Eli successor.

11. BEARS: A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

Comment: Leonard Floyd and Shaq Lawson are ideal fits as edge rushers but MMM (“Moon Mini-Mock”) is staying with (for now) the ideal fit and best-available for the open five-technique spot in Bears’ base 3-4.

12. New Orleans Saints: Shaq Lawson, DE/LB, Clemson

Comment: Lawson is getting increased play and scrutiny and production trumps all. Lawson or Georgia’s Leonard Floyd fill need for edge pressure.

13. Miami Dolphins: Leonard Floyd, DE, Georgia

Comment: Floyd a bit of a wild card, could go anywhere from 8-15.

14. Oakland Raiders: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Comment: Reggie Ragland brings more size, power, but search is on for LB’s who can cover.

15. Tennessee Titans: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Comment: Stanley or Jack Conklin a bargain here, and Titans want help blocking for Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray.

How some others see the Bears pick:

Leonard Floyd, LB/DE, Georgia (Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com; Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, ESPN)

William Jackson III, CB, Houston (Aaron Leming, Bear Report/Scout.com)

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Pat Kirwan, SiriusXM; Ike Taylor, NFL Media analyst)

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (Jim Miller, Comcast SportsNet/Sirius Radio; Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune; Charlie Casserly and Lance Zierlein, NFL.com)

Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama (Will Brinson and Rob Rang, CBS Sports)

Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville (Dane Brugler, CBS Sports; Charles Davis, NFL.com)

Ronnie Stanley, T, Notre Dame (Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com)

Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida (Charles Davis, NFL Network)

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (Lester Wiltfong Jr., Windy City Gridiron/SB Nation)

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (Cris Collinsworth, NBC)

Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (Michelle Bruton, Bleacher Report)

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)

[MORE: Complete NFL Draft coverage on CSNChicago.com]          

Remaining first round order:

16. Detroit Lions
17. Atlanta Falcons
18. Indianapolis
19. Buffalo
20. N.Y. Jets
21. Washington
22. Houston
23. Minnesota
24. Cincinnati
25. Pittsburgh
26. Seattle
27. Green Bay
28. Kansas City
29. Arizona
30. Carolina
31. Denver

(Note: New England forfeited first-round pick)

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.