Bobby Massie explains passing on free agency to re-sign with the Bears: ‘Wait for a few more pennies

At just after 9 a.m. Monday, Bobby Massie walked in through the back doors of LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance center.

Tucked away in a nondescript office park, you’d never know OLP is there unless you peeked inside at the powerlifting equipment and spacious environment for large men to hone their craft. Weights clanked and players did work on the artificial turf surface as Massie showed up for work, a routine he has stuck to annually since entering the league in 2012.

“This place is the goods,” Massie said, motioning to what is essentially a warehouse for offensive linemen. “How many gyms have you been to where you see all offensive linemen?

“I’m just here maintaining the engine — working to keep getting better. Never being proud where you are at. I can always get better every single day, and that’s what I do. That’s what we’re doing here.”

Massie signed a five-year, $40 million contract with $15.8 million guaranteed to return to the Bears on Jan. 26 — less than seven weeks before the start of free agency when he almost certainly could have gotten more money from the team or elsewhere. After the season, he no longer had any risk of being injured on the field and knew a payday was awaiting him.

The Bears identified Massie as a player they wanted back, and when they made an offer he deemed fair, he eschewed the opportunity to chase more money on an open market that was thin on experienced and talented offensive tackles.

“I don’t care,” Massie said in his first comments about the new contract. “At the end of the day, I was happy with what I got and I was where I wanted to be. Wait for a few more pennies? I am where I wanted to be.

“I want to be in Chicago because I know something special is coming. We’ve got a great team, amazing people in the building. I just love it there. I didn’t want to leave on that note.”

It’s rare to see a player choose the path Massie did, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a win for him and the organization. He feels justly rewarded after completing a three-year, $18 million contract as one of general manager Ryan Pace’s better moves in free agency, and the team has a pillar of the offensive line in place when replacing him would have been problematic. With an annual average of $8 million, Massie is tied for the fifth-highest-paid right tackle in the league.

The 29-year-old is coming off his best season as a pro and was charged with allowing only two sacks last season by STATS. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 25 pass pressures. Forty-six offensive tackles allowed more. The Bears also were driven to re-sign Massie for what he does from Monday through Saturdays. He’s considered a tone-setter in the offensive line room and on the practice field, and the Bears believe he has meshed well with position coach Harry Hiestand.

“Continuity with our offensive line is critical,” Pace said. “Especially with the offensive tackles. Bobby’s done nothing but get better and better with each year. We’re encouraged to have him back.”

Massie began training with Bentley before the draft in 2012, back when Bentley, a two-time Pro Bowl center whose career was cut short after six seasons by a knee injury, was working out of Ohio. When Bentley moved his operation to Arizona, it made working with the guy he calls his “big little brother” easier as the Cardinals drafted Massie.

“I have watched him every step of the way, the good, the bad and everything in the middle,” Bentley said. “His biggest growth has come in Chicago, and I don’t think it’s by mistake that his biggest leap in maturation has happened there. The organization has done a phenomenal job of putting the right people around him, not just from the coaching element. They put a lot of interest into Bob the person.

“His personal growth has really mirrored his growth as a player and I can’t just separate the two. He’s good and he hasn’t achieved his full potential, and this is the part that is interesting for me. Sure, you look back on it and wish some of the maturation would have happened a little sooner, but that is the beauty of this game, you are dealing with people.”

Part of Massie’s maturation was learning what would make him happy, and fortunately for the Bears, that meant a deal well before free agency, one that figures to stand as the team’s largest investment this season. Those who criticized Massie for passing on the opportunity to enter the open market don’t have an appreciation for what makes him happy, and that’s being in a place where he feels supported and where he feels he’s poised to be even better.

“I am just ecstatic, man,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave the city of Chicago and I didn’t want to leave this team. I know we’ve got something special brewing. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end last year and so everybody I have spoken to, everyone I see, we’re grinding for this season to get to that top spot.”

With that, Massie got to work.

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