Generally speaking, the best way to create a good offensive line is to invest resources into it. That’s what makes Ryan Poles’ decisions up front so confusing.
When Poles was hired, much was made of his work to help rebuild Kansas City’s offensive line as it went from a unit that couldn’t keep Patrick Mahomes on his feet to one of the best on the league. That rebuild included some major investments, including a trade for Orlando Brown Jr., a contract that made Joe Thuney among the highest-paid guards in the NFL and a second-round pick spent on Creed Humphrey. In one offseason, the Chiefs made their offensive line great again.
So, why won’t emphasize the position in Chicago?
The reasoning for not signing Brown to the Bears was sound. The Bears like to get their offensive tackles in space, getting to the second level of the defense. Brown isn’t the most mobile tackle.
But their hardline stance on Mike McGlinchey is confusing.
McGlinchey signed with Denver for a contract that will guarantee him $52.5 million and average $17.5 million per year. If the reporting of the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs is accurate, the Bears drew a line at $17 million per season. Over the course of a five-year deal, the Bears saved $2.5 million total. The Bears have more money than they can spend; they could’ve put the entire difference in the first year of the contract and left the rest of the deal exactly the same. It would not have hurt them in the future at all. At a time when putting players around quarterback Justin Fields is vital, pinching pennies that they aren’t going to spend anyway shouldn’t be a priority.
In basically any ranking of offensive lines around the league, you’ll see the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions and Chiefs near the top, all were among the top 10 in salary cap space spent up front. The Bears are currently slated to be 20th in offensive line spending in 2023, a ranking that won’t improve much with a couple of draft picks.
The Bears did make one big move, signing Nate Davis to play guard, but still have a ton of question marks on a line that struggled to protect on simple third-and-long drop backs. Betting on improvement from Braxton Jones is fine, but counting on that plus improvement, consistency and durability from Teven Jenkins, Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick is risky. And they still don’t have a single starting option at right tackle.
The plan, at this point, has to be to draft an offensive tackle with the ninth pick. The veteran market is mostly dried up; even Riley Reiff has signed elsewhere. To Poles’ credit, the Bears will likely be in the sweet spot to take an offensive tackle. They can add more interior help in the second or third round and the line should be better.
The problem with that plan is that rookie offensive linemen often struggle. Betting on a rookie offensive tackle is OK, especially if he is a top-10 pick. But betting on that along with all the other question marks should make Bears fans — and, more importantly, Justin Fields — uncomfortable.