Thus far the Chicago Bears have remained measured in their free agency approach. Aside from retaining their own free agents like Allen Robinson, Cairo Santos, and Mario Edward. Their only notable outside addition thus far is quarterback Andy Dalton. That is on just a one-year deal. Since then they’ve been mostly quiet outside of retaining Germain Ifedi and Deon Bush on one-year deals as well.
However, it’s possible the Bears may not be done with the offensive line yet. SM revealed the team was keeping an eye on left tackle Eric Fisher who was cut by Kansas City. A short time later Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported they were exploring Trent Williams as well. This established an interesting pattern. Are the Bears looking to make a change at left tackle?
It certainly appears that way.
A source told me that Chicago has added veteran Russell Okung to their list of players they’re sizing up to possibly pursue. The 32-year old spent the 2020 season in Carolina as their left tackle. Unfortunately, he was hampered by a calf injury all year. When healthy though, he looked a lot like the Pro Bowl he was in both Seattle and Los Angeles.
Why would the Bears consider him? Money is the primary reason. Leno counts $11.3 million against the cap in 2021. Releasing him would secure them an additional $6.2 million. It isn’t a stretch to think they can secure Okung for less and likely not see any regression on that side of the ball. Maybe even improvement.
Of course, this would require him to stay healthy. He hasn’t played 15 or more games in a season since 2018.
Okung carrying the runner an extra 12 yards. LOVE the energy he's playing with. Clearly the emotional leader of the unit. pic.twitter.com/01jvNaRxMo
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 14, 2020
Russell Okung (LT) vs Khalil Mack (pass blocking snaps only) pic.twitter.com/OtaXQEPJUM
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 20, 2020
Chicago Bears are clearly looking for options at tackle
Upgrading the offensive line however possible is a priority. They already unloaded Bobby Massie and replaced him with Ifedi who is both cheaper and healthier. While Okung would be cheaper, the healthier part is a problem. For all the criticism Leno gets, he’s at least been available. The guy is average. Serviceable. He’ll have good moments and bad in equal measure.
Nobody should fault the Chicago Bears brass for exploring the market to see if they can do better. When healthy, Okung is a superior player to Leno. A strong run blocker and reliable pass protector. Signing him would be an obvious gamble though. He turns 33 this year and can’t be trusted to stay on the field. So the price tag could determine whether they take the chance.
Don’t be surprised if the position is a central focus in the draft as well.
The 2021 class is reportedly rich in tackle talent. Enough to where they could possibly secure an immediate starter even with the 20th overall pick. This is where having somebody like Juan Castillo in charge can be extremely helpful. His work with guys like Ifedi, Alex Bars, and Sam Mustipher last season was impressive stuff. It should only improve as the Bears keep feeding him more talent. This might be the offseason to do just that. Unless they get a line on a top quarterback.