LAKE FOREST – Quick: Name a pending free agent for the Bears.
If you’re like most people – myself included – you probably first thought of playmakers such as Jay Cutler or Devin Hester or Charles Tillman. Maybe you mentioned a defensive lineman such as Henry Melton or Corey Wootton. Perhaps another veteran such as Tim Jennings or Josh McCown crossed your mind.
Regardless, you probably didn’t think of Matt Slauson.
But Slauson, 27, might represent one of the Bears’ most important free-agent decisions whenever the offseason begins. That could be as soon as Monday or as late as a few weeks from now, depending on whether the Bears beat Green Bay on Sunday and how they fare if they reach the playoffs.
When Slauson signed a 1-year deal with the Bears in March after four years with the New York Jets, he effectively placed a bet on himself. If the 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman from Nebraska enjoyed a good season, he might be able to sign a lucrative contract after the 2013 campaign. If he stumbled, however, nothing was guaranteed regarding his NFL future.
Slauson’s gamble has paid off for himself and the Bears as he has started 15 games at left guard and helped to solidify an offensive line that long had struggled.
Here’s our conversation with the fifth-year veteran about his season and his future.
TM: How would you grade your season with one game to go?
MS: I’ll feel a lot better after we win on Sunday. (smiles) But I feel like collectively, as a group, we’ve made significant strides. We’ve got to continue to do that and have our best game on Sunday afternoon.
TM: When you signed a one-year deal to come here, did you have an idea as to what would be in store? Why did you pick the Bears?
MS: You know, I wanted to go a place where I would have a chance to start and showcase my abilities. I didn’t want to go to a place and be a backup. The opportunity here allowed me to do that, and the great thing about the Bears is that every year, they are in it until the end.
TM: Just like this season.
MS: Yeah, exactly. And I know the more success that our team has, ultimately, the more success I will have.
TM: How many teams were in the hunt for you as a free agent?
MS: Probably four.
TM: Were they all 1-year deals?
MS: Yeah. Every situation was pretty much the same. But this one, I liked better for my personal situation. Plus my wife [Cami] is from Gurnee, so for her, this is like coming home.
TM: Where did you meet her?
MS: She went to school in Nebraska, so I met her there.
TM: Had you ever been in a position where you were playing on a 1-year deal?
MS: Never. I kind of thought I was in a position last year to sign a pretty lucrative deal in free agency, and unfortunately the new CBA didn’t allow that to happen. So I had to shift my mindset from getting picked up in free agency on a long-term deal to now I have to go to a team, prove myself, and hopefully sign an extension. My agent said the track record of the Bears is they like doing things like this. If you look at Roberto [Garza], it was the same exact deal.
TM: Do you feel comfortable here?
MS: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to stay here for a long time.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.