After a woeful Raiders tenure, Alex Leatherwood will have a second chance via the NFL’s waiver system. The Bears put in a claim for the former first-round pick, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.
The Raiders bailed on Leatherwood after one season, marking a shocking free fall for last year’s No. 17 overall pick. The Bears, however, have also run into extensive O-line uncertainty. The rebuilding team will take a chance on the former Alabama prospect. Leatherwood’s signing bonus is the Raiders’ responsibility, leaving considerable dead money on Las Vegas’ cap sheet, but the Bears are now responsible for $5.9M in Leatherwood salary.
Chicago, which changed up its roster considerably as it transitioned to a new GM-HC pairing this offseason, made five more waiver claims Wednesday. Defensive tackle Armon Watts, defensive back Josh Blackwell, defensive end Kingsley Johnathan, linebacker Sterling Weatherford and tight end Trevin Wesco will be en route to the Windy City as well, Yates tweets. The Bears’ six waiver claims are a league-high total this year.
This marks quite a haul for Chicago, which added former starters from Las Vegas and Minnesota. Watts started nine games for the Vikings last season, replacing the injured Michael Pierce, but the team changed defensive schemes this offseason and made a trade for former Texans second-round defensive tackle Ross Blacklock on Tuesday. That led Watts off the roster, but he will be back in a 4-3 scheme under Matt Eberflus, whose team cleared some D-tackle space by releasing Mario Edwards on Tuesday.
Viewed as a reach in last year’s first round, Leatherwood did not justify his draft slot when deployed at right tackle or right guard for the Raiders last season. The staff that drafted Leatherwood quickly moved him off right tackle, but Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the league’s worst guards. Despite the Raiders facing a few questions on their offensive line and losing Brandon Parker for the season, their new regime cut bait after trying Leatherwood at tackle again in training camp.
The Bears are expected to start fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle, and they have 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom on the right side. Riley Reiff, who signed with the team shortly before camp, is also in the tackle picture. The team moved 2021 second-rounder Teven Jenkins from tackle to guard late this offseason, and while Jenkins appeared in trade rumors, he is on the roster and may well start the season at the new position. Leatherwood, his early-career struggles notwithstanding, may now also be a factor at that spot.