The Chicago Bears have a problem on offense. Yes, granted they have several but the biggest one has to be their offensive line. After such a promising start to this 2020 season, the unit hit a rough patch the past two weeks against Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. Two games where they too often looked completely outclassed. Worse still, they ended up losing left guard James Daniels for the season to a torn pectoral.
Don’t get it twisted. This is a big loss for the Bears. He was probably their best blocker through the first month of the season. Especially in pass protection. With him out, that figures to put Nick Foles under even more pressure than he’s already seen to this point. Chicago is hoping former undrafted free agent Alex Bars is ready to step into the void.
Is he talented enough for that? Yes. Still, Bars is untested as a starter. Not ideal for a team that is 4-1 with playoff aspirations. They have to find a way to get this offense in gear. Good blocking is crucial. So if GM Ryan Pace has a big move in mind, he needs to consider it.
Here is a name that should top his shopping list.
Andrew Norwell is exactly what the Chicago Bears need
Norwell isn’t a guy who gets much attention. Not a surprise since guards usually don’t. The last time he was in the spotlight was 2018 when he signed a big contract to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Unfortunately, the next two years were marred by injury setbacks. People started to wonder if he was a waste of money.
Thankfully he’s healthy now and playing some good football again. The problem is his team is not. Jacksonville is 1-4 this season and looking like a team that is rebuilding. Since they’ve already jettisoned a boatload of veteran talent in the past several months, it’s fair to wonder if Norwell and his lofty deal might be next.
If so, the Bears need to be interested. He could be the solution to their developing problem.
One reason PFF is high on G Jonah Jackson, he has dominated in "True Pass Sets" (the most stable and predictive way to evaluate performance in pass-pro)
Pass-Block Grade in "True Pass Sets" among Gs in 2020:
1. Jonah Jackson, 79.8
2. Senio Kelemete, 79.4
3. Andrew Norwell, 79.2 https://t.co/4Krr96kMWW
— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) October 9, 2020
That grade is backed up on tape. Norwell has done a strong job helping to keep the pocket clean for Gardner Minshew this season. He looks much closer to the player he was when he inked that big contract three years ago.
Pass rep #1
Watch #68 at left guard. Norwell has the task of taking on #99 of the Titans, who is Jadeveon Clowney. One of the more freakish pass rushers in the NFL. The veteran doesn’t panic, gets into his pass set with good feet, and has his hands on Clowney right away. Then he uses his strength to drive the defender out of the play entirely.
Pass rep #2
This time Norwell is head-to-head with a bigger Titans defensive tackle. This is one of the harder reps for a guard to take. A straight bull rush on a deep drop by the quarterback. Again he shows proper feet and violent hands. Initially, he’s driven back but shows a good anchor to slow the rush and doesn’t give up the fight until the ball is gone.
Pass rep #3
Norwell has a bit of a tough job here because the left tackle takes on Clowney outside while the center moves to help the right guard. That leaves him on an island with #94 of Tennessee. He shows great movement in space, squaring up the defender and staying with him as the play unfolds. The guy never even gets a sniff of the quarterback.
Can the Bears afford him?
People will automatically look at Norwell’s contract and cringe. A $12 million cap hit for 2020? There’s no way the Bears can take that. Except it isn’t that simple. The truth is if traded at the deadline on October 29th, the 28-year old would cost his new team just $4.7 million for the remainder of the season. That is a number the Bears can absolutely handle.
It would immediately fortify their interior with a veteran presence rather than the untried Bars or the underwhelming Rashaad Coward. Draft compensation probably wouldn’t be bad either. A 3rd round pick at most and probably less. History says veteran guards tend to go for around 4th or 5th rounders on the open market.
Then the Bears can decide if they wish to keep him beyond this season. Norwell will have two more years on his deal. Keeping him aboard with Daniels returning may look enticing. Then again if the financials are impossible, Pace would be able to release him and gain $9 million in cap space.
Make no mistake. This would be a win-now move for the Chicago Bears. Then again, given what might await them next offseason, they might as well go big or go home.