Days before opening the 2016 regular season, the Chicago Bears signed guard Kyle Long to a new contract.
The Bears shared an image of Long signing his deal Wednesday after NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that the two sides had agreed on a new deal for four years and $40 million, with $30 million in guaranteed money:
"Kyle is extremely talented, a great teammate and more than deserving of this contract," general manager Ryan Pace said in a team release. "He is a big piece of the foundation we are building and we only expect him to continue to get better. We are excited to announce this long-term commitment to Kyle."
A first-round draft pick in 2013, Long was entering the fourth year of his contract. The Bears previously exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal in April, which was going to pay him $8.8 million in 2017, per Spotrac.
The Bears have had a lot of problems along the offensive line for years, but Long has been one of the few bright spots. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three NFL seasons, was a second-team All-Pro in 2014 and has missed only one start in his career.
After playing right tackle last season, Long is expected to move back to his natural position at right guard in 2016.
Following the 2015 season, Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus noted that Long "wasn't a natural at right tackle, but by the end of the year, had made a good enough go at it that you could see him sticking there for the long term."
Long's versatility and willingness to play wherever the Bears need him are a testament to his team-first mindset and just one of the many reasons he received this new contract.
The Bears need to find stability on the offensive line with Jay Cutler entering 2016 at the age of 33 and having not played 16 games in a season since 2009. Long is only one piece of the five-man puzzle, but his consistency makes it easier to fill in the rest of the unit and help the offense improve for next year and beyond.