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Bears declining to pick up Josh Sitton's contract option

Veteran offensive guard Josh Sitton will get another chance to test the free-agent market next month.

The Chicago Bears are declining to pick up Sitton's $8 million contract option for next season, sources informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

He's set to become a free agent when the new league year starts March 14. Chicago also won't bring back linebacker Jerrell Freeman for 2018.

"I am planning on playing and hitting free agency and continuing to play at a high level," Sitton told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. "I believe I have prime years left."

With the decision, Sitton enters the free-agent market for the second time of his career after the Green Bay Packers released him just before the start of the 2016 season.

Sitton, 31, started in 25 of the 26 games he played in for Chicago, but he struggled with his consistency while battling through ribs and ankle injuries in 2017. With Cody Whitehair potentially available to take over Sitton's spot at left guard and plenty of strong O-line talent poised to be available in the opening rounds of the draft, Sitton became expendable -- especially when considering the declined option frees up $7.9 million under the salary cap.

The former All-Pro likely will find a landing spot fairly quickly despite his ongoing battles with injuries. His stacked resume offers an attractive option for any NFL team seeking to add a strong, veteran presence to their offensive line via free agency.

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