When the Bears announced the 4-year extension of Bobbie Massie‘s contract no one was more surprised than I was. However, as I’ve had time to step back and digest it all it makes a ton of sense. I didn’t feel that way at first. I thought they could insert Rashaad Coward and save a ton of cap room. Than I started to take deeper look at the Free Agent market and there aren’t a whole lot of guys I’d go through the trouble of saving cap space for.
Taking that into consideration, there may be more value in keeping your Right Tackle for a couple more seasons. Sure, the contract is reportedly for four years but only two are guaranteed by the same reports. It’s unlikely Massie see’s the third year of that deal. By than, Coward should be ready. For now, Massie gives the Bears continuity. Probably the single most important element in good line play other than talent. There’s value in that. Especially in an offense looking to take the next step in year two under Head Coach Matt Nagy.
Another value to the offense with the Massie signing is he doesn’t make mistakes. Massie was one of the league’s least penalized linemen. His performance was excellent too Giving up only 1 sack, 2 Quarterback hits and 23 pressures according to pro football focus. Easily his best season as a pass protector.
He’s also available missing just 5 snaps this season. Aside from Kyle Long the Bears had one of the most durable offensive lines. Along with Massie the Bears could count on the availability of both Charles Leno Jr. and Cody Whitehair. Leno missed just 8 snaps and Whitehair none.
Speaking of Whitehair, he’s likely the next one in line for an extension. This was another reason I was surprised of the Massie signing. With Whitehair set to hit the free agent market in 2020 I thought for sure Whitehair would be next on the list of extended Bears. Especially being a player drafted by Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and developed into a Pro Bowler. There’s also the Philosophy both Pace and Nagy share of strengthening the interior of the line and using game planning to cover the edges to help their tackles when necessary.
With Whitehair going into his last season with the Bears before becoming an unrestricted free agent one would have to assume there is a sense of urgency to extend Whitehair before reaching free agency. Especially with the importance being placed on keeping their offensive line intact. It would be hard to believe the Bears would simply let Whitehair walk without an honest effort to resign him before the start of the season.
Other than the offensive line being completely intact heading into the 2019 season, the Bears will also be returning all of their starters on the offensive side of the ball. Just as the theme for the defense last season was maintaining continuity on the defensive side of the ball by keeping the players and coaching staff in place in spite of a new Head Coaching hire, so is the theme of continuity on offense this season.
While the offense in 2018 was finding their way the Bears had the defense going into year four and helped to offset the growing pains of the offense while taking the defense to another level of good. At times carrying the offense and in the second half of the season had Nagy actually taking the foot off the gas pedal playing more error prevention to ride his dominant defense to glory.
Going against his very nature of aggressive play calling, Nagy did what was best for the team. Playing the time of possession, field position, and turnover free game while allowing his far more advanced defense be the playmakers was the right move to make. This season the offense will have to play a more advanced role in the team’s success. While the defense won’t be quite as green as the offense was in 2018 there will likely be a learning curve with the addition of a new Coordinator and new assistant coaches to boot.
No doubt Pace and Nagy took this in consideration and planned to keep continuity high on the list of off-season priority. Just by being together the offense figures to take a huge leap in 2019. If the defense can simply maintain what they did in 2018 while the offense progresses to the next level this could be the genesis of a perennial Super Bowl contender.
While personnel doesn’t figure to get a huge makeover there is still the question of where the Bears take their running game in 2019. While keeping the offensive line intact along with the hope of Kyle Long remaining healthy throughout the season should improve the running game, there is one move that makes sense both in system fit and continuity while adding a completely new player.
I’m of course referring to the addition of Kareem Hunt. For now, let’s remove the obvious off-field issues that would follow him to the Bears. Going by pure football reasons there could be no more perfect addition to upgrade the team. There are some that would say simply draft the next Hunt. Most would point to Damien Williams (an undrafted player) and what he’s done after Hunt was cut. Why can’t the Bears do that instead of bringing a questionable character into the locker room and burden the current players with the team of having to answer questions in regards to the Hunt assault case.
While it’s true Williams was in his first season with Kansas City he was a vet going into his fifth season and coming from a system in Miami under Adam Gase who used his Running Backs in similar ways as Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid did. Drafting a rookie and expecting him to step in seamlessly and pickup the protections and route concepts not to mention the zone scheme the Bears use to run the ball most of the time would be overly optimistic. Hunt, on the other hand would not only bring the skill set needed to execute everything the Bears ask of their Running Backs, but the cerebral side that would help him to adjust on the fly when the Bears need to based on what the defense does against them.
I don’t expect big changes to the personnel on offense but I do expect some upgrades to their depth both via the draft and in the secondary wave of free agency. The majority of the offensive progression will come from within. Development will be the largest focus on offense. More plays will be introduced and installed now that the players are familiar with verbiage and adjustments within the plays called. Also, with the coaches familiarity of what their players do best and don’t do best. It’s going to be all about continuity if this offense steps up into the top half of the NFL.