Whether it was justified or not, there was optimism that the offensive line could be a strength of the Bears in 2019. Instead, it was a problem all season long.
The trouble started early when Kyle Long — while reportedly healthy — clearly still wasn’t the Pro Bowler of 3-4 seasons earlier. He showed flashes but also missed too many blocks and assignments. Once he got injured, the flood gates opened
Rashaad Coward was so raw that the Bears decided it was necessary to flip Cody Whitehair back to center and Daniels back to guard — away from their natural and best positions — further weakening the unit.
Bobby Massie missed the Washington game in Week 3 with a bout of vertigo, and then the final five games of the season with a high ankle sprain.
Cornelius Lucas actually did a nice job stepping in for Massie.
Lastly, there is Charles Leno, who somewhat inexplicably was voted an alternate to the 2018 Pro Bowl, perhaps compelling the Bears to mostly ignore the offensive line last season.
Ted Larsen is one of the better backup interior linemen in the league, but he is a free agent this offseason, as is Lucas.
Like Coward, Alex Bars is extremely promising at guard but still for the most part an unknown.
2019 Matter of Fact: The Bears finished the ’19 season 27th running the football, 29th in average gain per run, 21st in sack percentage allowed and 25th on third down.
Charles Leno tied for 2nd in the NFL in 2017 for most penalties committed with 13, cut that in half in 2018 with six — although that was still second on the Bears — and then jumped back to fifth in the league in 2019 with 12.
After getting sacked 24 times for 143 yards in 2018, Trubisky was sacked 38 times for 234 yards this season.
Cap Commitment: The Bears currently have $29.2 million committed to their offensive line in 2020, 13.55% of their total cap committed, which ranks 22nd in the NFL in O-line spending, according to spotrac.com.
The biggest chunk goes to Leno, who will have approximately a $10.3 million hit this season, with $7.4 million in dead money.
Massie will count $8.3 million against the cap but has more than that in dead cap money on his deal, and then Cody Whitehair, who got a new deal just prior to the start of the ’19 season, will have a $7.4 million hit.
If the Bears don’t pick up the $6 million option on Long, which they won’t, they’ll take a $1.5 million cap hit to move on from him.
Offseason Need (1 lowest, 5 highest): The Bears’ need to improve the offensive front is a 5, arguably their greatest need with the possible exception of tight end.
If the offense is to improve, the Bears must find better talent at left tackle, more competition at left guard, and if they don’t re-sign Larsen they will need depth at center and guard as well.
Available prospects to watch: There are no clear improvements at left tackle available in free agency but the Bears would be well served to re-sign Lucas, who is more natural on the left side than he is on the right.
If the Bears could work a trade with Washington for Trent Williams, it would be the most certain way to get a huge upgrade over Leno immediately. Williams definitely wants out of D.C., but his new head coach, Ron Rivera, hopes to convince him to stay.
28-year old Brandon Scherff and 26-year old Andrus Peat would be huge upgrades at guard, but both will be very expensive.
The draft is considered as strong on the offensive line as any other position, with as many as 11 players possibly ranked in the top 60, but as many as seven or eight are likely to come off the board before the Bears pick at 43.