About a year ago, Chicago Bears fans were sold on the notion that general manager Ryan Poles (a former offensive lineman) and assistant general manager Ian Cunningham (a former offensive lineman) would fix the offensive line. They went to work on revamping the unit by reshaping it with more athleticism, and considering it was year one of a rebuild, patience was needed, but their first year’s work in the trenches wasn’t very promising.
The last two teams to employ Poles and Cunningham were the Chiefs and Eagles — the two teams that just played in the Super Bowl — and those two teams have good o-lines, so the future could be bright in Chicago if they can apply what they learned at those franchises to the Bears.
It wasn’t all misses up front last offseason from Poles and company, but overall, they still have a ton of work to do.
In this 12-part series, I’ll list the contract status of all the current Chicago players on a position-by-position basis while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Braxton Jones - Signed through 2025 - Jones being able to step in and start all 17 games as a rookie is a hit for this regime. I like Jones’ upside, as he has all the tools you want in an NFL left tackle, but he’s also humble and self-aware of what he needs to do to take his play to the next level. This will be a big offseason for him, but it seems as though the Bears are all-in on Jones being their 2023 and beyond left tackle.
Riley Reiff - Free agent - Reiff was a professional, veteran o-lineman for the Bears that made 10 starts, but he’s clearly on the downside of his career. If he returns, it’ll be at a much smaller salary, but my guess is he’s gone.
Larry Borom - Signed through 2024 - The Bears gave Borom nine starts last season, but he did lose his starting right tackle job to Reiff midway through the season. There was an injury, but he remained on the bench when cleared. Borom’s best bet to stick around is as a swing tackle that can move inside in a pinch.
Alex Leatherwood - Signed through 2024 - The Bears played Leatherwood at both tackle and guard in 2022, and they’ve yet to make a public declaration on where they want him to play in 2023. I like him at guard, preferably on the left side, but two years into his career, he’s yet to settle into a position.
Kellen Diesch - Signed through 2024 - He spent all of 2022 on Chicago’s practice squad, and his best pro fit may be as a guard due to his shorter-than-ideal arms, but he fits the athletic profile that the Bears want for their outside zone scheme.
2023 OUTLOOK - I’m guessing the Bears make two big-money free agent splashes in March, which will be defensive tackle and right tackle.
The consensus top right tackle on the market is San Francisco’s Mike McGlinchey, and if he leaves the 49ers, it’ll take a huge payday. Jack Conklin’s recent extension averages $15M for the Browns, so McGlinchey asking price will start north of that. Jacksonville’s Jawaan Taylor will be in that same salary ballpark.
Atlanta’s Kaleb McGary has some history with Bears’ OL coach Chris Morgan, and if the Falcons let him get away, he’d be a fit for the Bears.
The Chiefs Andrew Wylie just capped off a nice season with a Super Bowl win and is a free agent that Poles should know very well.
Chicago must leave free agency with a plus starter on the right side. They’ll draft in the trenches too, but I feel o-line will get a lot of money thrown at it. They’ll fill their needs in March, then depending on how the board falls, they’ll pluck a developmental tackle at some point.
It’s certainly possible the Bears target a left tackle (FA or draft) and ask Jones to move to the right, but they’ve talked Braxton up quite a bit as their left tackle, which leads me to believe they feel he’ll blossom at that position.
What do you think the Bears will do at tackle this offseason?