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People can feel bad about Robbie Gould's release if they want but bringing in left guard Josh Sitton for the low, low price of a slight downgrade at kicker is a significant win for the Bears.
It isn't quite that simple, of course, but Gould's (contract's) exit and the signing of former Tampa Bay kicker Connor Barth for about half of what the 11-year Bear kicker was going to make ($3 million) created critical space under the cap.
And the money that will fill that space became part of the contract offer three-time Pro Bowler Sitton couldn't refuse. Meanwhile, Barth might be a bit of an upgrade over Gould, who blew two potential game-winning kicks last year and missed a pair of extra points in the final exhibition game this year. He turns 35 in December and is a little ways down the back side of his career.
I'll never understand why the Bears left themselves exposed on the offensive line like they did. Why they gave away Matt Slauson for nothing and then sure enough found themselves in trouble after center Hroniss Grasu suffered a season-ending injury and Kyle Long was sidelined for a time. But with this move, the Bears addressed what had become by far their most pressing issue going into the season. And Long was back at practice Monday.
Sitton isn't just a powerful guard, he is also stalwart, having started all 16 games in six of the last seven seasons for the Packers. He steps right in on the left side next to left tackle Charles Leno and makes the overall line so much more respectable. Rookie Cody Whitehair or veteran Ted Larsen will man the center spot and the Bears go from there.
It doesn't matter if "the line is in turmoil for the second straight year" as some have complained (Kyle Long unsuccessfully moved from right guard to right tackle at the start of last year) if the line was going to struggle as constituted.
There is something unresolved going on with Long, and because the Bears refuse to level with their fans about even the basic parameters of injuries (Pernell McPhee's knee surgery was supposed to be minor - a few weeks ago Willie Young told us the procedure was major enough that it is career-ending for some), speculation is a must.
And the best guess out there about Long's situation right now is that he has suffered a shoulder injury (almost certainly something having to do with his labrum) that would normally result in surgery, but that Long is going to attempt to play through.
That doesn't sync up with the contract extension Long just signed, but maybe the Bears decided more money (reportedly $30 million guaranteed - the only number that really matters - over four years) would be an especially good inducement for Long to play hurt.
The Packers' cutting of Sitton feels a lot like the Bears' trade of Martellus Bennett (although at least the Bears got a decent draft pick). Sitton has never been shy about speaking his mind, criticizing the Packer game plan after a loss to Arizona late last season. And maybe that means the Packers diminished their line for a not very good reason. Thank you, Packers president Ted Thompson.
Unfortunately, that merely means the Packers are perhaps a tiny bit less way better than the Bears heading into this season. Still, I am more optimistic than I was before the move, which means my prediction for the Bears' record this coming season has moved all the way up to 5-11. Unbelievably, the Bears still have no safeties. Their pass rush will be questionable at best and, on offense, they are nowhere near replacing Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett.
But midway through the preseason I was considering 2-14 and checking minor league (college) football schedules to take a look at potential top 2017 draft talents. I don't think the Bears will be that bad anymore and if Jay Cutler can step up and crank up a better than average passing game this time around, the squad might even make it to .500.
But how likely is that?
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, except when holidays push his column to Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.
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