Pro Bowl left tackle are some of the hardest diamonds to find in the NFL. The Chicago Bears haven't had one for decades. Should their front office open the purses to go get talents like Jake Long or Ryan Clady?
J'Marcus Webb and the offensive line challenged by Jay Cutler
One thing that gets overlooked from time to time is that good players want to play in offenses that can win. That could explain why it has become so hard for the Bears to lure good offensive linemen to Chicago. They never had the best potential. In the space of two months, that all changed. For the first time in, well, forever, the Windy City has the makings of a dominant offense. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte return healthy from last season with some pretty awesome company joining the rodeo. Three-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and big-bodied second-round pick Alshon Jeffery give Chicago a real passing attack. Throw in the knee-shredding skill of Devin Hester in the return game and the Bears actually might scare defenses in 2012. The one obstacle to it all is the offensive line. Their struggles the past few years is old news by this point: 105 sacks allowed in two seasons. The blame for the struggles falls on young left tackle J'Marcus Webb. Cutler came right out in a recent interview and said the promise of the Bears new offense depends on if Webb and the line can block consistently. It's a challenge they expected. Whether they can deliver is impossible to answer. If they do fail the question becomes if they can find a better NFL talent next season.
Long and Clady NFL futures unknown going in contract years
NFL free agency in 2013 is a world away, but fans never ignore even early in the season. Two names still set on course to hit the market next years are Jake Long and Ryan Clady. They are arguably two of the best young left tackles in football yet somehow haven't reached long-term deals with their teams. The Miami Dolphins are in a state of change under head coach Joe Philbin. Some experts wondered if Long fit in the Philbin offense despite reaching four Pro Bowls. A bigger problem is whether the 28-year-old can stay healthy. He has battled injuries the past three seasons and could start the opener on an iffy right knee. Miami already traded Brandon Marshall for lesser reasons. It's not a stretch to think Long could go next. Clady on the other hand hasn't missed a start since he got drafted. Coaches believe he has all the tools to stay one of the best in football for years. The problem is Denver either can't or won't meet his price. What makes these two names so tantalizing for Chicago is their connections to the Bears. Clady protected Jay Cutler when they played together in Denver. That year the Broncos were second in the league in total offense. Long, however, is a fierce run blocker who pass blocks well, something Bears offensive coÃ¶rdinator Mike Tice loves.
No matter how one looks at it, the pressure isn't on Jay Cutler or the Chicago Bears receivers any more. If J'Marcus Webb and offensive line fail in 2012, look for the team to double down for Jake Long or Ryan Clady.