There are a lot of decisions the Chicago Bears will need to make in regards to the offensive tackles currently on the roster. Besides determining who plays on which side, they may also kick a guy or two inside to guard. The only thing that’s for certain regarding the offensive line is that general manager Ryan Poles isn’t happy with his current group.
“It agitates me to see a quarterback get hit and be on the ground — and I watch the five guys and their body language,” Poles said via The Athletic when talking about Chicago’s o-line in general. “If I see my guy on the ground, I’m running over there, getting him up, making sure he’s clean, ready to go. I don’t know if I saw that enough in the tape that I watched, and that’s critical. And also to protect your guy.“
There’s a possibility that the Bears’ 2022 opening game offensive line features a completely new line up than last season, so getting the returning guys all honed in on the technique needed for their particular position is going to be critical. Decisions on the Bears’ o-line go deeper than just tackle, so check out my spotlight on guards and centers too.
In this 12-part series I’ll be listing the contract status of all the current Bears players on a position by position basis, while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Teven Jenkins - Signed through 2024 - Offensive line coach Chris Morgan needs to dissect Jenkins’ 2021 tape (all 161 snaps), and then go back and watch everything Jenkins did at Oklahoma State so he has a good baseline on what he envisions for Jenkins in 2022. His college tape was all mostly at right tackle, but then after he opted out the remainder of his senior year on November 30, 2020 to rest his back and to prep for the NFL Draft, he focused on left tackle. He’s been on the left for well over a year now, so it’s safe to say his comfort level on that side is pretty high.
But the new regime may want to move him back to the right side or maybe even to guard. I’ve seen enough of him now to feel comfortable that he’s going to be a solid professional, barring injury, where ever he lines up, but I also want to see him settle into one position for the rest of his career.
He plays the game with nastiness, so you have to assume that excites Ryan Poles. In that article from The Athletic Poles went more into detail on what he’s looking for from his linemen.
“If you see something cheap, something dirty, you need to set the tone that that’s not gonna happen,” Poles said, “because if you do let it happen once, it’s going to happen over and over and next thing you know, your quarterback is hurt. So that mentality is critical and is something we need to add.”
Jenkins has it.
Now we just got to see where he ends up.
Jason Peters - Free agent - If Peters wants to continue playing, I would be completely fine if the Bears brought him back to compete for a reserve spot. He was the Bears most consistent lineman last year, and even at 40-years old I think he has something to offer. His last year at Philly he was set to play guard, so if he’s willing to come back for one more year to be a swing player while the Bears work on coaching up some young depth, I say do it.
Larry Borom - Signed through 2024 - A popular notion floating around some analysts is that the Bears should move Borom inside to guard, and while I agree that should be on the table, I think the team should give him every chance to compete at tackle first. I’m not sold that he’s a guaranteed starter at tackle moving forward, but I liked what I saw from his feet and hands a year ago. He has some potential, and after shedding a bunch of weight before his rookie season I want to see how he attacks this offseason.
Germain Ifedi - Free agent - Ifedi is about to be a free agent, but there’s still $1.5 million in void year money the Bears will need to pay. With the way he berated Jenkins for sticking up for his QB in that week 15 game against the Vikings I can’t see Poles wanting him back.
Elijah Wilkinson - Free agent - While Wilkinson does have some positional versatility, he’s just not good enough at any of them to warrant being re-signed.
Lachavious Simmons - Exclusive rights free agent - The new regime might look at his tape and think they could move him to guard or continue his development at tackle, and at the low ERFA cost to bring him back they just might do that.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. - Signed a Reserve/Futures contract - The former college tight end is a decent athlete, but his tackle technique is still too raw. He’s a long shot to even make the practice squad in 2022.
2022 OUTLOOK - If it were me making the call, I’m leaving Jenkins and Borom at tackle, but I’m also looking for a starter level guy to come in to play one of the tackle spots. I think Jenkins will be pencilled in to start somewhere, but they can’t count on Borom at this point in his career. If Borom wins a job, that’s great, but more quality is needed.
Green Bay’s Dennis Kelly (32-years old) has 51 starts since 2012, including 4 last season, and he could be a vet option that has some familiarity with new O.C. Luke Getsy’s offense. The Jets’ Morgan Moses is a year younger than Kelley and is a much better player. Pittsburgh’s Chuks Okorafor was coached last year by Bears o-line coach Chris Morgan, so he’ll know if it’s worth pursuing the inconsistent 24-year old.
Even if the Bears add a veteran I think it behooves then to grab an offensive tackle in the draft too. Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa plays the game with an ornery disposition that Ryan Poles is sure to like, but he could be off the board before the Bears come up at 39th overall. Then again, draft pundits and analysts all expected Teven Jenkins to be a first rounder a year ago and he went to the Bears at 39 last year. Tulsa’s Tyler Smith also plays with an edge and could be had on day two, and Louisiana’s Max Mitchell is an athletic day three option.