The Bears’ longest-tenured homegrown player agreed to a restructured contract Tuesday that could allow him to play his entire career with one organization.
Three-time Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long had the four-year, $40 million extension that he signed in 2016 redone in order to decrease his $8.5 million cap hit and give the Bears some much-needed cap relief as the new league year quickly approaches. The Bears, who had only $12 million in cap space (No. 26 in the NFL before Long’s restructure) are expected to approach more players about contract adjustments before the new league year opens March 13.
Long, whom the Bears selected in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Oregon, enters the offseason healthy for the first time in several years. He missed eight games with a right foot injury last season but returned for the regular-season finale in Minnesota and wild-card defeat against the Eagles. His eight starts were the same number he made in 2016, when he signed his extension with a torn left shoulder labrum from the year before but battled through it for the first half of the season.
At his best one of the game’s more athletic big men and devastating run blockers, Long played in 10 games two seasons ago (nine starts) before a gruesome ankle injury requiring surgery last offseason, one of three separate medical procedures he was forced to undergo, along with shoulder and neck operations.
Long started 47 of a possible 48 games to begin his career, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl invites before a fluky run of injuries. With him set to return next season, the Bears should line up the same starting five offensive linemen from the year before for the first time in a while. That continuity could be key as the Bears aim to improve the NFL’s 21st-ranked offense (No. 27 in rushing yards a play).
Good as gone: One former longtime Bear who won’t be returning to the team is free-agent kicker Robbie Gould, who received the franchise tag from the 49ers at a cost of about $5 million. That all but extinguishes Bears fans’ faint hopes that Gould, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader and one of the NFL’s best kickers since the Bears unceremoniously dumped him before the 2017 season, would come back to clean up the Cody Parkey mess.
The Bears will move on from Parkey when the new league year begins in two weeks only one year into a four-year, $15 million deal that included $9 million guaranteed. He’ll account for $3.5 million in dead cap space once the move is official. But the Bears will swallow hard and turn the page after Parkey’s upright escapades and “Today” show appearance on the heels of his last-second playoff miss marked an abrupt end to the Bears’ breakthrough season.
The Bears signed free-agent kicker Redford Jones, a first-year player out of Tulane who never has kicked in the NFL, earlier this offseason. He’s expected to compete with a draft pick and/or college free agent and perhaps a more established veteran in 2019.