Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
How many players received a franchise tag throughout the NFL?
Bears receiver Allen Robinson II was among nine players to receive a franchise tag by Tuesday's deadline. The others were Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin, Jets safety Marcus Maye, Panthers tackle Taylor Moton, Jaguars tackle Cam Robinson, Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Broncos safety Justin Simmons, Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Saints safety Marcus Williams. Notable players around the NFL who were eligible to be franchised but weren't tagged include Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, Seahawks safety Shaquill Griffin, Falcons safety Keanu Neal, Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick and Titans tight end Jonnu Smith.
Everyone seems to be super hyped about Sam Mustipher. If he remains the Bears' starting center, who do you see starting at guard on either side of him as both James Daniels and Cody Whitehair have mainly lined up at either left guard or center?
It has yet to be announced who will line up at right guard in 2021, but the good news is that both James Daniels and Cody Whitehair give the Bears position flexibility. At Iowa, Daniels started at center his final two years after opening two games at left guard and also lining up at tackle as a freshman. In three seasons with the Bears, he has started 23 games at left guard and eight at center. At Kansas State, Whitehair started at left tackle his final two years after splitting time between left guard and right tackle his first two seasons. In five years with the Bears, he has started 60 games at center, 16 at left guard and two at right guard (both in 2017). So Whitehair is the only one of the three players you mentioned who possesses NFL experience at right guard.
I don't think, however, that determining which guard spots Daniels and Whitehair play in 2021 will be that big of an issue. The key thing is that getting Daniels back from the pectoral injury that sidelined him for the final 11 games last season should give the Bears offense a giant boost, especially teaming with Mustipher at center following his emergence last season. Here's what general manager Ryan Pace recently said about the guard and center positions heading into 2021: "We feel really good about the interior of our offensive line. Both Whitehair and James Daniels were second-round picks for a reason and they've really grown into their roles. When we put Cody there at left guard [midway through last season], I thought he really settled in and played his best year of NFL football. And getting James back is going to be huge; you know how much upside he has, and he's been working his tail off. And you can't say enough about Sam Mustipher. We're so lucky to have him and his leadership and his intelligence, his ability to calm everybody down, it's infectious. He's the guy sprinting 20 yards downfield, picking up the ballcarrier, just leading the whole group, and it's so natural for him. You go back and you look at his character at Notre Dame; he was the leader of that offensive line room at Notre Dame and there were a lot of good players in that group. I think that's very natural for him. He settled into that role very well and I think it was infectious to the entire offense."
With the Tom Herman hire, is it a possibility that the Bears could draft his old quarterback from Texas, Sam Ehlinger?
Honestly, I don't know the likelihood of the Bears drafting Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (who's projected as a midround pick in most mock drafts I've seen). But I'm sure that the Bears will tap into new offensive analyst/special projects Tom Herman's knowledge of prospects who played for him at Texas and against him as well. (Herman spent the past four seasons as Longhorns head coach.) That type of information is especially valuable this year given that, because of COVID-19, the Combine was cancelled and NFL teams aren't allowed to meet with prospects in person except at their Pro Days. Speaking to reporters on a video call last week, Bears general manager Ryan Pace mentioned the importance of Herman's input when discussing the difficulty of evaluating this year's draft prospects—many of whom opted out of the 2020 season. Said Pace: "Our area scouts are so valuable in this process because they're our boots on the ground, they're the ones in the school. But information is harder to obtain this year. It's an unprecedented time. So we've got to lean on our scouts, we've got to lean on different avenues to collect that information, and that's what we'll do. Bringing in a guy like Tom Herman, he has so much intel on these guys in college right now, and it goes all the way back to recruiting them and being in their homes recently. So there are a lot of different ways we can use different avenues to our advantage and this is a year to maximize that."
Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.