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Really Senior Moments
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It probably is the release bearing...

Yes the transmission has to come out to replace it.

There is no reason on earth to not change the clutch and pressure plate, (along the pivot (use the 8 series SS pin) and the arm, (cheap at $20)) If you are doing that bearing. That will ensure a lot of trouble free miles.

The stock dual mass flywheel is usually good for 2 clutches.

I'd say labor to do the clutch (or just the bearing since it's almost the same job) is $800. It's not a horrible DIY if you have tools, (I swapped in a ltw flywheel and a 6 speed in my garage, but I have a lift...)
 
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