Conflicting Reports Emerge About Bears Offensive Lineman

Rashaad Coward Bears

Getty OL Rashaad Coward

W ill they or won’t they? Initially, it was reported by Daniel Greenberg of FanSided and ChiSportsUpdates that the Chicago Bears were going to be moving on from offensive lineman Rashaad Coward. The Bears signed Coward as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and he spent the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad, ultimately playing in one game that year.

Coward changed positions when head coach Matt Nagy arrived in 2018. Originally a defensive end, Nagy had him convert to offensive line, and he was moved up to the active roster in 2019, to help fill in for an injured Kyle Long at right guard.

But a day after Greenberg reported the team was set to move on from the o-lineman, Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic says, not so fast.

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Coward Has Been Role Player on Bears’ O-Line for Last 2 Years

Releasing Coward would free up $825,000 in cap space for Chicago. Bears general manager Ryan Pace called Coward “a work in progress” last year, and while he started 15 games for them over the last two seasons, he never quite got his run-blocking down enough to become a contributor who could be counted on — and he was actually worse in play-action situations.

Per Pro Football Focus, Coward earned a 46.1 pass blocking grade and a 49.4 run blocking grade in 2020. He allowed three sacks and five quarterback hits in his 16 appearances this season, and he also allowed 11 hurries and 19 quarterback pressures. While he filled in for Long at right guard in 2019, he took the bulk of his snaps at left guard in 2020, while also spending time at right tackle.

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Cuts Are Likely Looming for the Bears

Chicago is operating under the assumption that the 2021 salary cap will be topping out at around the $180 million range, and the team is currently around $4 million over the $180 million projection, so several cuts and contract restructures are expected to be coming soon. Per Fishbain, though, Coward may not be one of them:

“There’ll be some decisions to make. I think you’re going to see more of that around the league than you’ve ever seen. But we’re prepared. We’re expecting the cap to be about 180 [million], so we’re prepared for that and we’ll operate accordingly,” Bears GM Ryan Pace said Tuesday, adding:

“There’s a window here to improve our team. … We have foundation pieces in place on our roster. We’ve proven we have a playoff ready roster; we’ve been there two of the last three years and we’ve got a lot of young talent we need to develop. Obviously our expectations are much higher than that. But it’s about building upon what we already have, making the necessary strides. That’s a big one that we’re talking about right now and I understand that. But we do feel like we have a lot of foundation pieces in place, a lot of good talent on our roster, and it’s our job to add to that.”

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