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Report: Bears guard Josh Sitton will be hitting free agency

One of the top guards in the league is going to be a surprise free agent. Somewhere, Jon Robinson smiles.

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Tom Pelissero is reporting that the Bears will decline their team option for guard Josh Sitton for the 2018 season, making him a surprise free agent.

Sitton has ranked among the best guards in the NFL every year since he became a starter in Green Bay in 2009. Here are his PFF grades from 2009-2017: 87.5, 89.6, 87.5, 85.9, 90.0, 89.8, 86.8, 85.7, and 86.0. That’s a remarkable level of consistency an production spanning 7 seasons as a starter in Green Bay and 2 as a starter in Chicago. He’s not just a PFF darling either as he has been selected to 4 Pro Bowls over the past 6 years.

Sitton is 31 years old, and according to Pelissero, the Bears are choosing to go younger at the position as they appear to be settling in for a longer term rebuild under new head coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. (The Bears also released inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman today in a similar move.) Jordan Howard’s emergence as the NFL’s 2nd leading rusher in his rookie season in 2016 was due, in large part, to Sitton, Cody Whitehair, and Kyle Long making up one of the most dominant guard-center-guard combinations in the NFL.

I wrote last week extensively about the guard market and left that piece feeling like there wasn’t likely to be much on the market that was better than Titans incumbent Josh Kline. This changes that. Sitton would represent a clear upgrade over Kline and Jon Robinson won’t even have to use much projection to see what Sitton would look like in a zone blocking scheme as the Bears have been one of the heaviest practitioners of the ZBS in the NFL over the past two seasons. Sitton fared very well playing in that scheme and would seem to be natural fit here in Tennessee. Due to his age and position, he is unlikely to fetch a massive contract on the open market despite his considerable skill set so it’s possible that the Titans could land him without committing much, if any, long term money. This is a great free agent option for Jon Robinson in my opinion.