Alex Bars

Bears could make a move for recently-released Saints guard Larry Warford

Bears could make a move for recently-released Saints guard Larry Warford

Earlier on Friday, the Saints released offensive guard Larry Warford. Given the moves New Orleans made on the offensive line this offseason, it wasn't entirely surprising – but now, one of last year's best guards is on the free agent market: 

Would Warford be a good fit on the Bears? He's good, so yeah, he probably would be. The team is in decent financial position, as Over The Cap has them with a little over $9.2 million in cap space. Cutting Warford saved New Orleans roughly $7.7 million against its salary cap, so theoretically, there's at least fit there. An argument could definitely be made that Warford seems better suited for a team with more power run aspirations than the Bears, but with the way the offensive line looks right now, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy can't exactly be picky. 

As it currently stands, the Bears have Rashaad Coward and Germain Ifedi as their best two options at right guard, with Alex Bars and the 2020 seventh round draft pick, Lachavious Simmons, in the mix, as well. Warford would be a significant upgrade over anyone in that group, but the Bears, almost certainly, will not be the only team interested in bringing the 28-year old, three-time Pro Bowler aboard. The Bears would be smart to at least partially make a run at Warford, though if Pace's other moves on the line this offseason are any indication, the Bears might sit this one out. 

Bears Inactives: No last-second surprises on the last day of the year

Bears Inactives: No last-second surprises on the last day of the year

The last Inactives list has arrived, and there's not a lot to report: 

Both Rashaad Coward and Bobby Massie being out means the right side of the Bears' offensive line is going to be about as depleted as it's been all year. Get ready for a healthy chunk of Alex Bars, Ted Larsen, and/or Cornelius Lucas. 

With Hicks and Goldman out, Sunday's also a good chance for pending unrestricted free agent Nick Williams to put some last plays on tape before he tests the market. 

A little under 90 minutes until the 4th preseason game the last game of the season kicks off. 

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

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USA Today

Who's the Bears' best option to replace Kyle Long at right guard?

The Bears have three options on their roster to start on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the first game of — in all likelihood — the post-Kyle Long era in Chicago. Is a guy who’s only played 30 snaps as a guard in his pro or college career really the right choice?

Rashaad Coward may be new to the position, but the Bears like his athleticism, physical edge and work ethic he brings to the offense. Also in the conversation: 10-year veteran Ted Larsen and undrafted rookie Alex Bars. 

Coward has more immediate upside, but Larsen (who's officially questionable with a knee injury, though he practiced in full Friday) is more a you-know-what-you're-getting guy. Coward's upside, though, lies in the athleticism and physicality he showed in limited time against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.

“He’s a tough guy, he plays very, very hard,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “It’s super important to him, he’s very prideful, he’s very determined to keep his guy from making a play and that’s a big part of this.”

That Hiestand has actual game film on which to evaluate and teach Coward is important. And the Bears saw him do some good things in letting his raw talent take over against the Vikings. 

“Going into the game, I was like F it,” Coward said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”

Coward said on Monday he practiced with the No. 1 offense, and given Larsen was limited in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, there's a decent chance Coward will start on Sunday. 

Larsen, though, is the kind of guy who could get the nod on Sunday without getting many reps during mid-week practices. 

Larsen suffered the injury in Week 4, which led to Coward entering the game, and he didn’t travel to London with the Bears in Week 5. But his veteran experience — he’s started 87 games in his career — and flexibility to play guard or center make him a trusted backup.

“I played a lot of football,” Larsen said. “I’m ready whenever they want to use me.”

There is a possibility the Bears rotate Larsen and Coward on a series-to-series basis, as the team did with a veteran (Eric Kush) and a greenhorn (James Daniels) at left guard last year. 

"It’s something that could definitely happen," Nagy said. "I’m not opposed to that. And then you can also balance and see, whether it’s Ted or Rashaad, how are they playing and we can get a feel for that during a game and we feel comfortable with both."

Bars is unlikely to factor this week but does have long-term upside. He turned down an opportunity to join the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month because he saw a better opportunity in Chicago. That his college offensive line coach is now his pro offensive line coach certainly played into that decision, too.

Many thought Bars would be a mid-round draft pick prior to his final season at Notre Dame, but a torn ACL and MCL suffered last September knocked him down to being an undrafted free agent. The opportunity to link back up with Hiestand helped bring him to Chicago, where he played well during the preseason — but not well enough to make the Bears’ initial 53-man roster.

“The transition to this level coming off the injury was an adjustment I had to make, still making it every day,” Bars said. “I’m trying to improve and work against really, really good guys.” 

The Bears’ starting right guard for the rest of 2019 will hardly be settled by who starts against the Saints in Week 7. Coward may get the first crack, but if his inexperience overshadows his talent, the Bears may need to call on a safer option in Larsen. And that could open the door for Bars to start, too, if he proves to Hiestand behind the scenes he’s back on the track he was on prior to his collegiate injury.

Whoever plays, though, needs to be better than Long was over his four games prior to going on injured reserve. The Bears made that difficult decision in part to improve at right guard. It’s now on Coward — or Larsen, or Bars — to make good on that promise.

"Between the three of them I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," Nagy said. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."

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