When the 2021 season began, it wasn’t difficult to pinpoint the likely players that would be priorities for the Chicago Bears going into the 2022 offseason. Players that would need long-term extensions. Topping the list was guard James Daniels. He was 24-years old and had played some of his best football before getting injured the year prior. Presuming he continued to play that way, an extension felt like a foregone conclusion.
Things change, though. Daniels’ season did not live up to expectations. While he did have some nice games at right guard, he suffered from inconsistency. He finished the year allowing 40 pressures on the quarterback. More than any other blocker the Bears had. Not a great look for a guy in a contract season. Combine that with the exit of Ryan Pace as GM, the man who drafted Daniels, and it creates genuine confusion over what the Bears will do. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune asked a veteran agent about what the young guard may cost on the open market.
His answer might make the decision easy for Ryan Poles.
“Daniels is an interesting one to keep an eye on. At 24, he will be the youngest guard on the market. One veteran agent I spoke with Wednesday — he does not represent Daniels — predicted the market for the former second-round pick could reach $12 million per season. Considering Cody Whitehair’s five-year extension in 2019 was for more than $10 million annually, that seems plausible. It would be surprising if Daniels didn’t come in at $10 million per year or more.”
#Bears James Daniels isn’t as effective on inside zone/power scheme concepts. He usually does a good job of initiating contact but struggles to generate movement at the point of attack. pic.twitter.com/iVsTFUbmIS
— TomKavanaughMU (@TomKavanaugh5) June 18, 2021
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That is eye-opening. The fact James Daniels struggles like he did but will still cost $10-12 million to retain in Chicago. That doesn’t seem like a proposition Poles would be interested in. Especially when the guy doesn’t seem to exhibit a lot of the qualities the new GM prefers in offensive linemen. Particularly a nasty edge. As capable as Daniels can be at times, he comes across as way too passive in his approach.
Everything points to the Bears offensive line undergoing a major overhaul this offseason. Poles wants to bring in guys that better fit his vision for the unit. Rumors persist that almost everybody Pace drafted or signed on this roster might not be part of the future. Daniels is one. Larry Borom, Sam Mustipher, and Cody Whitehair are others. If somebody else wants to fork out that much money for the young guard, then that is what will likely happen.