Bears

NFL free agency buzz: Strategic thinking forming along Bears OL

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NFL free agency buzz: Strategic thinking forming along Bears OL

The Oakland Raiders burying the money needle with a five-year contract topping out at $60 million for former Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele should make even lower-tier offensive linemen manage a smile.

The deal may cost the Bears a few dollars more in a market that the Osemele deal heats up, but it doesn’t cause any sort of ripple in the Bears’ overall plan, which includes an offensive lineman fitting some very specific criteria.

Consider: The Denver Broncos released veteran guard Louis Vasquez on Tuesday, another player with some history with John Fox from the latter’s time coaching the Broncos. Vasquez is far from used up, turning 29 next month. He came into the NFL as the third-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2009 draft. Vasquez also has played extensively at tackle.

What makes Vasquez and Seattle Seahawk J.R. Sweezy, turning 27 next month, particularly intriguing is that either would effectively give the Bears five starting linemen with only left guard Matt Slauson as old as 30 (Slauson turned 30 last month).

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Slauson is signed through 2017 to a deal paying him $2.9 million each of the next two seasons, NFL-affordable for a starting guard.

To Slauson’s left is tackle Charles Leno Jr., age 24. To Slauson’s right, Hroniss Grasu, age 25 on Opening Day 2016. Right tackle is Kyle Long, 27.

Meaning: Using 28 to split the difference between Sweezy and Vasquez, the Bears project to begin the 2016 season with an offensive line averaging 26.8 years of age and signed through 2017 because of the Bears’ fifth-year option with Long’s rookie contract.

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.