Wherever Bears play Kyle Long, money time may be at hand


Wherever Bears play Kyle Long, money time may be at hand

The Philadelphia Eagles created a mild stir last week when they popped for a six-year contract with Lane Johnson despite their (current) right tackle still have two years remaining on his rookie deal, including the fifth-year option.

Johnson’s deal is reportedly worth potentially $63 million, including $35.5 million guaranteed. And this is for a right tackle. Some thinking is that Johnson, the No. 4-overall pick in the 2013 draft, will eventually move to left tackle when Jason Peters, whom Kyle Long coincidentally replaced on the Pro Bowl roster, is done in Philadelphia.

It would not be a complete surprise for Long, who came into the NFL 16 picks after Johnson did in 2013, to get his inevitable extension sooner rather than later, like Johnson. The Bears have managed their cap situation with aplomb and the overall money pool is due to deepen, too.

The going rate for good tackles, which the Eagles clearly regard Johnson as, is north of $10 million. Besides Johnson, Ryan Clady’s five-year deal with the Denver Broncos came in at $52.5 million over five years, and Clady has been a Pro Bowl starter. Long has three straight Pro Bowls in his NFL career; Johnson, for comparison purposes, has none. At guard or tackle.

Long, who came into the NFL with Johnson and the ’13 class really wasn’t all that keen on going from being a two-time Pro Bowl guard to an apprentice right tackle. But former offensive coordinator Adam Gase praised Long for his willingness to make the position change. The Bears have taken care of key players – Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson, others – with early extensions.

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Right or left? Think twice about it

Left tackle has become the glamour position on offensive lines, pretty much over the last 30 years with finding someone to deal with blind-side speed rushers from the defensive right side like Lawrence Taylor (primarily), Bruce Smith, Richard Dent and so on. Blind-side hits produce the occasional loose football.

But so many Hall of Fame defensive ends have been left, not right, ends – in no particular order, including Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Howie Long, Willie Davis, Michael Strahan, Dan Hampton, Jack Youngblood and so on. The front-side rusher is the one in the quarterback’s face, the one he can see and panic at the sight of coming around his right-tackle’s outside.

Accordingly, the Hall of Fame has welcomed Bob Brown (“Boomer”), Ron Yary, Rayfield Wright, Forrest Gregg, Jackie Slater and others from the right edge of the offensive line.

Nearly all of the top salaries for tackles are for left tackles; Johnson only right tackle among the top 19 salaries for tackles. Long being the second would not be a premature move by the Bears with one of their franchise players, regardless of position.

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

USA Today

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.