Right before this past Sunday’s first slate of NFL games, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Chicago Bears G Kyle Long was potentially headed to the IR.
Well, that report was true. The team couldn’t make the statement until Monday, and here we are.
“It’s a tough situation, just because of what he’s been going through and where he’s at,” coach Matt Nagy said after Monday’s practice via the Chicago Sun-Times.
It’s been no secret that the Bears as a whole have struggled this year, but the offensive line (specifically Long) has been a main issue with the team. After sustaining a hip injury that kept him out of the game against the Vikings, he tried to give it a go against the Raiders when the Bears traveled to London before the bye. It was abundantly clear he was not 100%, and that very well might have been the last game in the Blue and Orange.
We know for sure he won’t be back this season:
Long recently restructured his contract this off-season, largely due to his inability to stay on the field (to no fault of his own). I believe that without this restructure, Long would have been released rather than kept on-board. It would have been a sad way, for a guy who’s been a rock on the team through some bad years here, to go out. It’s a business though and he would have been an expensive guy to have on the bench taking up cap space for two more years.
The restructure had some impact on this year, but the big impact is next year. Should the Bears release him or he retires (likely) after this year, the Bears are only stuck with a $1.5 million cap hit next season. If he remains with the team, it’s an extra $8.1 million that Long would be owed. None of which is guaranteed. In all honesty, with how strapped the Bears are going to be in the coming years with cap space and having to pay other players, Kyle Long might need to go regardless.
So what are the options to replace Kyle Long?
- Ted Larsen – Veteran backup who is dealing with an injury of his own.
- Rashaad Coward – Former defensive lineman that the Bears converted to offense last season. Young guy who is skilled, but still learning the position. Like that he’s willing to change sides of the ball to help the team. He appears to be the likely candidate for the job after playing in Long’s absence against the Vikings.
- Alex Bars – Undrafted lineman out of ND (ND is like lineman U at this point right? So he’s got some potential). Today the Bears brought up Abdullah Anderson from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in Long’s spot after needing to add some depth after the Hicks injury. So Bars likely won’t be brought up unless some more changes are made with this roster. Some other intriguing points about Bars though:
- His draft stock likely would have been higher if not for an ACL/MCL injury that ended his season/ND career.
- The Bears’ current offensive line coach (Harry Hiestand) was the O-line coach while Bars was at ND.
- The Patriots tried to sign Bars off the Bears’ practice squad but Ryan Pace upped his practice squad salary to a Rookie min deal of $495k.
It’ll be interesting to see who fills in and how short of a leash anyone has got before someone else is given a shot. It will also be interesting to see if other changes are made to the O-line. Like will Cody Whitehair and James Daniels switch back to where they were playing last year? The O-line was not this bad.
Long likely wasn’t the only reason why this Bears line has struggled. Nagy didn’t pinpoint one player and hopes the unit as a whole gets better.
“Obviously, you understand when a move like this is made, right, and then you have the issues that we’ve had with the run game. It’s really easy to just go ahead and say, is it because of one person? I can clear it up right now and tell you it’s not because of one person,” Nagy said. “I don’t know where that goes with whoever that next person is but we know there’s a lot more to our run game than one person, for instance Kyle Long, there’s a lot more to it than him.”
I don’t want to finish this article without highlighting what Kyle Long was able to achieve while with the Bears before the injuries started stacking up. In his first three seasons, he played (and started in) 47 out of a potential 48 games, while making the Pro-Bowl in all three of those seasons. After that third year is where the injuries started stacking up and he hasn’t looked the same since, only playing in 30 out of a potential 54 games (including last year’s playoff game), before heading to the IR today.
Kyle Long was one of the lone bright spots and a rock on the team for all the bad years recently and it’s a shame that his body has failed him. Although him being gone from the team could help with the salary cap and help the team on offense right now (theoretically), he was a guy that worked his ass off, was (is) a leader on this team, and as far as I know, no one has a bad thing to say about the guy and his character. Stuff like that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. As for that stat sheet? Well, his stat sheet when he was healthy got him to 3 straight Pro-Bowls.
We’ll see what happens during the remainder of the season and this may be the end for Kyle Long, but he’s a Bear for life and should be appreciated.
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