The Chicago Bears yesterday waived veteran offensive lineman Matt Slauson.
Slauson was signed as a free agent in 2013 after spending his first four years with the New York Jets. After a solid 2013 campaign, his contract was extended another three years by former Bears GM Phil Emery.
Unlike many of the decisions Emery made, extending Slauson's contract was a move with which everyone agreed.
Kyle Long has been a Pro Bowl constant his first three years in the NFL, yet it can be argued that Slauson has outplayed him over that timeframe. Other than his injury-shortened 2014 season - in which he missed all but five games due to a torn pectoral - Slauson has been the model of consistency for Chicago's offensive line.
He's an absolute rock in pass protection. At guard last season, he allowed just one sack and a total of seven QB hurries, with no QB hits. At center, a position at which he had never before played, he allowed just 1 sack, 1 QB hit and 2 QB hurries. In total, he gave up 2 sacks, 1 QB hit and 9 QB hurries. By comparison, Long allowed 6 sacks and 28 QB hurries.
Slauson is just capable as a run blocker as well and has no legitimate holes in his on-field game.
In addition, Slauson was revered in Chicago's locker room. He took on a leadership role the past few years and was well respected amongst his teammates. His presence off the field was just as important as his play on Sundays.
Age isn't a serious concern. He's just 30 years old and offensive linemen can typically play at a relatively high level well into their 30s.
His contract wasn't a serious issue either. He was due just $3.4 million this year and the Bears will save just $2.6 million by cutting him. Before his release, they had more than $22 million in cap space, and that includes Alshon Jeffery's deal under the franchise tag. The team did not need to clear cap space and Slauson't savings, which include $835,000 in dead money, were minimal.
Yet the Bears have reportedly been trying to trade Slauson all off-season. When they couldn't find any takers, they outright cut him.
Two justifications are being spread as to why Slauson was cut: 1) the Bears want to get younger up front and 2) the team wants more athletic offensive linemen.
While those sound reasonable in theory, those excuses don't hold water when 33-year-old Manny Ramirez, a 325-pound plodder, is still on the roster. Ramirez, who played under head coach John Fox in Denver, was a free-agent acquisition who is expected to compete with Hronis Grasu for the starting center position. He's not young or athletic.
And remember, Slauson was a more-than-capable fill-in at center last year. So if the team was dead set on inserting second rounder Cody Whitehair at left guard, why not cut the older, slower Ramirez and have Slauson compete at center?
With Ramirez still on the team, telling us Slauson wasn't young enough or athletic enough is akin to looking me in the face and telling me the sky is red.
Bear Report's Aaron Leming was told Slauson's health played into the decision.
If Aaron's source is correct, then why was he being shopped? For a second-year general manager like Ryan Pace, trying to ship a hurt player is the equivalent of career suicide.
So in what alternate universe does waiving Slauson make the Bears better next season, both on and off the field?
With Slauson on board, you would have still had the opportunity to move Kyle Long to left tackle, instead of hitching your wagon to Charles Leno, a 6-3 former seventh-round draft pick who has 14 career starts. With Slauson on board, you wouldn't have to depend on Hroniss Grasu, who showed a troubling lack of power last year, or the lead-footed Ramirez at center.
When broken down, this is a move that makes almost no sense. In fact, there almost has to be something else at play here, something to which we are not privy.
Fox has been doing this a long time, as has offensive line coach Dave Magazu. They obviously had their reasons for cutting Slauson, yet that doesn't make them right.
Guaranteed, there will come a point this upcoming season where we're going to turn each to each other and say, "Boy, it sure would be nice to have Matt Slauson back." But at that point it'll be too late, as Slauson will be doing rock-solid work for another NFL team.
When it comes to personnel, sometimes NFL teams get too cute. Right now, the Bears are a two-month old puppy.