EDIT: On Tuesday the Bears made it official and Leno was designated as a post-June 1 release.
The Bears have released starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr., NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday.
Leno, who turns 30 in October, was a seventh-round pick out of Boise State in the 2014 NFL Draft. He stepped into the starting lineup early in 2015 and started 13 games that year, and he went on to play in and start in every game over the next five years. He made a Pro Bowl appearance as a replacement player in 2018.
The move comes as a surprise, even with the selection of Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Jenkins was projected by many as a better fit at right tackle, but by releasing Leno, it seems as though the Bears intend on making him their blind-side protector of the future.
Releasing Leno as a post-June 1 cut saves the Bears $9 million and results in a dead cap of $2.3 million in 2021. It has no effect on their salary cap situation in 2022. The move allows the team to be able to afford to sign their rookie class.
EDITOR: Josh Sunderbruch had some thoughts on the Bears releasing Leno that we wanted to share as well.
Leno was always a polarizing player for fans, albeit by “7th-round pick” standards. He was never a true great a the position, and his play was not without its flaws. However, he was reliable and he was able to anchor a line that was usually adequate at pass protection, whatever its struggles in the run game. Given that Ryan Pace spent two of his three highest draft selections on the offensive line, this sort of move was inevitable.
Releasing Leno now is a win-win scenario. The move saves Chicago $9 million in cap space since he’ll be designated as a post-June 1 cut. Meanwhile, releasing Leno now gives him a chance to catch on with another team sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on the Bears cutting their starting left tackle?