Kyle Long represents everything that’s right about the Bears. He’s a home-grown, accomplished player who puts football and the Bears first. After two Pro Bowl seasons at guard, he took one for the team last year and moved to right tackle at the last minute, did his best and was rewarded with another Pro Bowl berth.
He’s a well-spoken guy who would be the face of the franchise if anybody knew what a guard looked like. He admits his mistakes but will only take so much crap. And he can dish it out as well as he can take it. He’s passionate about everything he does, whether he’s playing a video game on line or attacking a linebacker on the field. He’s a Bear that Bears fans would love to have a drink with. If the Bears had 53 Kyle Longs … they’d probably have too many linemen and not enough defensive backs, but they’d find a way to win.
Long is an obvious keeper. But while the report that the Bears have agreed to a contract extension with Long — a four-year, $40 million deal with $30 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport — is good news for the Bears, it also represents just how muddled the Bears are as they struggle to rebuild under general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox.
The Bears’ best player is a guard. The Bears’ best player was drafted by somebody else (take a bow, Phil Emery). The Bears’ best player is playing a different position than he played last year. And — most of all — the Bears best player’s status for the season opener against the Texans next week is unknown. That is the Bears-in-transition in a nutshell — trying to get the right pieces, trying to get them in the right places, and hoping against hope they can keep them there for 16 games. That’s so typical of the Bears’ current plight that the first question to Kyle Long after signing a monmental contract will likely be, “Will you play on Sunday?”
Bears guard Kyle Long has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract extension that includes $30 million guaranteed. (Tom Gannam/AP)
And if Kyle Long isn’t the Bears’ best player, he’s easily the highest rated player at his position. Long made the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons at guard — as a rookie in 2012 and in 2013, when he was a second-team All-Pro selection. Long’s $30 million guaranteed is the most for a guard in the NFL. The $10 million annual average salary is second best among guards in the NFL behind the Raiders’ Kelechi Osemele (five years, $58.5 million).
That’s not bad for a guy who went to Florida State on a baseball scholarship, was a back-up defensive end at Saddleback Community College in 2010, didn’t play offensive line until 2011 at Saddleback and started just five games at Oregon in 2012.
That’s impressive growth, which is one more reason why Kyle Long is so emblematic of the current Bears. They need a lot of players to take a similar quantum leap to be relevant this season and beyond. The important thing for his teammates to know is not how much he got, but how he got it.