The Bears have officially revamped their situation at tackle.
Chicago is releasing dependable tackle Charles Leno Jr., NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
The Bears selected Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round of last week’s NFL draft and have plans to play him on the left side of the line, leading to the release of Leno, per Rapoport.
At this time one year ago, Chicago could comfortably point to its tackles as a pair of blockers upon whom the Bears could rely. Those two — Leno and Bobby Massie — are now both gone, with Elijah Wilkinson and Jenkins set to replace them.
Chicago’s motivations for making these changes can be seen from the other side of Lake Michigan. With less than $500,000 in cap space before the release of Leno, the Bears are in a desperate spot to clear space in order to sign their rookies and have enough to work with in 2021. That meant the earlier releases of cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine, tight end Trey Burton, the decision to decline an option on Massie’s deal, and now Leno’s departure.
Releasing Leno as a post-June 1 designation will save the Bears $9 million in cap while accounting for $2.3 million in dead cap in 2021, per Over The Cap.
Leno will be free to sign with a team in need of a starting left tackle, and at 29 years old, he still has plenty of good ball left in him. An obvious pairing would land Leno just one state to the east, Indiana, where he could fill Indianapolis’ biggest remaining need and wouldn’t meet a financial hurdle, thanks to the Colts having among the most remaining cap space in the league.
It’s about as much of a no-brainer as there is when it comes to veteran free agents finding new teams, and a gift from above for Indianapolis after the Colts didn’t land a tackle in the draft and didn’t even select an offensive lineman until the seventh round. We’ll see if it comes to fruition.
Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, meanwhile, will have to hope Jenkins acclimates to the pro game quickly, and that Wilkinson has a career year after starting just seven games in 2020. As the Bears have demonstrated throughout this offseason, plenty of moves have been necessary from both a competitive and financial standpoint. This one just happens to be the latest.
2014 7th round draft pick 👉🏾 93 consecutive starts in the past 7 seasons with the team that I was drafted to.
My time in Chicago has officially come to an end. It’s a bittersweet day but I am excited to see where this next chapter takes me. pic.twitter.com/XJbJbop1kD
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