The Chicago Bears will not pick up the 2018 season $8 million option for guard Josh Sitton, according to Brad Biggs of Chicago Tribune. Sitton, 31, will hit the free agent market instead, which carries some big implications.
Andrew Norwell of the Carolina Panthers is the current big-name free agent at the position, and given the way the franchise tag works, they are not expected to use it on him. Norwell would still be the top guard on the market, but Sitton would be a reliable veteran whose play has been at a high level for much of his career.
And the San Francisco 49ers are expected to be in on the guard market. Joshua Garnett is from a previous front office, was injured all of last season, and Brandon Fusco is set to be a free agent. The team re-signed center Daniel Kilgore, and I could see them adding a starting guard in both free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft.
Sitton would be an interesting pickup for some team, though it’s really unclear what kind of deal he could be looking at. The $8 million that the Bears are declining to pick up isn’t unreasonable for an above-average starter at guard. He dealt with rib and ankle injuries that caused him to miss time, but played in 13 games for the Bears last season. They are looking to go younger at the position overall, while saving some money in the process.
Pro Football Focus ranked Sitton as the fifth-best guard in 2017, and he’s been named an All-Pro multiple times over the course of his career.