After deciding to spend the entire organized team activity workout period working out on his own in Arizona the Bears have decided to trade former first round pick Gabe Carimi. The Bears completely revamped their offensive line from a year ago with only two potential starters returning from a year ago. J'Marcus Webb and Roberto Garza will be the only two returning starters from the opening day roster of 2012. Carimi moves on to Tampa Bay for a sixth round draft choice, a mere two years after becoming the 29th overall pick in the first round under the Jerry Angelo/Lovie Smith.
There are plenty of reasons to like and dislike this move on the part of Phil Emery most of which I will attempt to cover here.
Certainly, Gabe Carimi had a really poor 2012 season as the starting right tackle for the Chicago Bears. He was absolutely dreadful in pass protection allowing seven sacks nine QB hits and 32 pressures in 11 games as a starter and one in which he came in in relief. As a run blocker however, Carimi was the complete opposite grading out as one of the best run blocking offensive tackles in the NFL in 2012.
Carimi has been battling a knee injury that has been labeled as everything from a knee cap dislocation to other reports stating it was a complete knee dislocation. Either way the knee injury ended his rookie campaign prematurely and now reportedly effected his second season with the Bears too.
The question is then if Carimi battled an injury and is potentially coming back healthy, why are the Bears choosing to trade away offensive line talent? Marc Trestman stated that they see Carimi as a guard, but the Bears certainly lack a stable right tackle situation. J'Marcus Webb is the most disliked player on the offensive line, but in 2012 he was also the best performing offensive lineman on the roster according to ProFootballFocus. Webb is moving from left tackle back to right tackle where he experienced his worst season as a rookie. While Webb has certainly improved since that rookie campaign he is no where near the run blocker that Gabe Carimi is.
Webb could very well stabilize the right tackle spot, that is the expectation is that he'll continue to improve in a position better suited for his skills. It's a safe assumption, but as we know there are no guarantees with one of the most aloof members of the team. Webb knows he's under the microscope and yet he found himself arrested this off-season for marijuana possession. The charges were of course dropped, but Webb still likely faces punishment from the league because it was still an off the field incident.
Overall Webb's biggest problem is his continued lack of focus despite his improved on the field play. With Phil Emery preaching competition on the offensive line Carimi is easily the best competition for Webb to deal with at the right tackle spot.
Contrary to Phil Emery's statements on Jonathan Scott this off-season he shouldn't be on the roster. Scott was absolutely dreadful in his short stint as a starter. Scott's season totals over 189 pass blocking attempt were as follows one sack, five QB hits and 14 QB hurries. If you project it out to the 16 game total pass block attempts J'Marcus Webb played would equate to a disastrous 44 QB pressures 15 QB hits, and five sacks on the season. To put it simply Scott's pass protection numbers would have been among the worst in the NFL for the 2012 season.
Webb and Scott aren't the only players competing at right tackle this off-season and heading into training camp, rookie Jordan Mills a fifth round selection has also been taking reps at right tackle. As with any rookie RT taken in the middle to late rounds you can count on Mills to struggle as a rookie if he winds up being the starter.
Based on how Mills has looked in practice it's arguable that he may struggle to make the roster. Mills has struggle mightily in pass protection during OTAs, often times lacking an explosive step out of his stance, and slow feet in cutting off the edge to NFL level pass rushers. While it's extremely early for Mills and overall he's facing an enormous jump in the level of competition he's facing at this point I wouldn't be comfortable with his as the backup right tackle behind Webb.
All of this begs the question why trade Carimi prior to OTAs and training camp? Carimi has been working hard to improve his play and rehabbing his knee. He deserves the chance to show that it was a knee problem that caused him to miss time last year and that his rehab process has improved his ability from a year ago. Yes Carimi very well may not have been in the Bears future, but Jonathan Scott CLEARLY should not be in the team's future plans and relying on a fifth round draft selection to be your primary backup offensive tackle is playing Russian roulette with the injury bug.
Carimi is not without responsibility for his own decision to be the only player to miss OTAs, and his feelings towards the Bears medical staff are completely unwarranted. NFL franchises however can't afford to trade away talent and Carimi's talent warranted him being on the roster longer and receiving a legitimate shot to compete as a right tackle.
At the end of the day trading Carimi for a mere sixth round draft selection or projecting him as only an offensive guard was the wrong call. Carimi has shown a strong ability as a run blocker, ability beyond his second year veteran status. As with any young offensive tackle, pass blocking ability is a skill set developed over time. Carimi played at Wisconsin which is one of the most run heavy offenses at the college level. Developing his pass protection was something the Bears should have been far more patient with.
Now the Bears are clearly in a no win situation. The likelihood the Bears draft a player in the sixth round who sticks on the roster for five years is as close to zero as it gets. Carimi is clearly the second best offensive tackle on the roster heading into the 2013 season and trading away a quality player while getting little in return may yet again hamstring this football team in 2013.