It took no time for the Chicago Bears to make some additions to their squad as they continue to hammer away at their roster. To say that Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles was an active participant on the waiver wire may be an understatement as the Bears brought in six new players into the mix.
Who are they? What do they bring to the table? And how do they fit?
Let’s take a look …
OL Alex Leatherwood
Let’s begin with the biggest name on the list. Alex Leatherwood is only a year removed from being the 17th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Although selecting the offensive lineman that early may have been considered a reach by some, Leatherwood was expected to go in the first two rounds.
One has to expect Poles had a pretty strong grade on Leatherwood coming out of college. Poles wouldn’t have made the claim, absorbing the remainder of his rookie contract, if that was not the case.
Leatherwood provides the Bears with position versatility as he can play either tackle or guard. It will be interesting to see where exactly they intend on using him. He started the first four games at right tackle for Las Vegas before being moved to right guard for the remaining 13 games.
Regardless of where he has played in the NFL, Leatherwood has admittedly struggled. According to PFF, his pass protection grade was the second-worst in the league last season of all guards who played at least 610 snaps (29.0). He allowed a league-high 65 pressures and was also the third-most penalized offensive lineman in the NFL with 14 penalties.
Can the Bears turn things around for Leatherwood and start tapping into his potential?
That is what Poles is banking on. If Leatherwood doesn’t pan out, at least the GM kicked the tires on someone who has upside. And if he does blossom into a quality starter in Chicago, Poles looks like a genius.
This is a solid pickup by the Bears.
DT Armon Watts
A surprise cut out of Minnesota, Armon Watts comes to Chicago after having a career-best season in 2021 with 46 tackles, 10 QB hits, five sacks and three tackles for loss in 17 games and nine starts.
The former sixth-round pick was playing with the Vikings’ starters throughout training camp and the preseason, but after they traded for Ross Blacklock, Watts became the odd man out. It’s also worth noting that Minnesota did transition to a 3-4 defense this year, which means the Vikings do value different skill sets and body types out of their linemen on defense.
Watts’ 32 total pressures last season was the 29th most of all interior defensive linemen, which was seven more than Angelo Blackson. The Bears will welcome Watts’ ability to get after quarterbacks.
In Watts, Poles picks up a player that should instantly be a big part of the rotation up front in the Bears’ defense. And at only 26 years old, perhaps for years to come.
DB Josh Blackwell
Here’s someone that the Bears must have really liked coming out of college this year as Josh Blackwell was cut from the Eagles after signing with the team as an UDFA out of Duke.
In fact, he was cut not only once, but twice. Blackwell was a player that they cut to trim the roster down to 80 players, but after a roster spot opened back up, Philadelphia re-signed him to their roster for the final week of the preseason before ultimately cutting him again to reach the 53-man limit.
Blackwell didn’t have the greatest preseason with only four tackles in 92 snaps. He allowed three catches on four targets and a passer rating of 153.1. He also had two missed tackles.
According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, “[Blackwell’s] a long, athletic corner with solid ball skills who can double as a return specialist.”
Time will tell exactly how he fits on this team. Just keep in mind that Poles and the Bears must have had some positive remarks on the kid to claim Blackwell, which places him on the active roster. This is the same front office that decided to draft Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker in the second round and Elijah Hicks in the sixth round. So, it’s clear they did their homework on the position.
DE Kingsley Jonathan
After being cut by the Bills, Kingsley Jonathan, is now a Chicago Bear. After signing with Buffalo and going undrafted earlier this year, Jonathan always had an uphill battle to make their final roster.
He only played in two preseason games due to an injury and finished with four total tackles. However, the rookie did end up stacking some pressures on opposing quarterbacks.
Jonathan must be a player that the Bears believe they can develop.
LB Sterling Weatherford
If you’re wondering who Sterling Weatherford is, just think of him as the Jack Sanborn out of Indianapolis. He was a standout player for the Colts throughout training camp and in the preseason, but they ended up cutting him. One would have to expect that the Colts were hoping he’d clear waivers in order to make it to their practice squad.
In college, Weatherford was a swiss army knife at Miami (Ohio), playing multiple positions in its defense where he finished with 209 total tackles including 10.5 for a loss. He also compiled three sacks, four interceptions and 19 PBUs.
Without question, Weatherford was an ultra-productive player in college. He was a difference maker against the run and in coverage. The Colts decided to move him from defensive back to linebacker, and even though he was new to the position, Weatherford had himself a solid preseason.
Throughout it, his skills were on full display as he finished with the second-most tackles in the league with 18. Despite being targeted 13 times, Weatherford only allowed a passer rating of 55.8. and had an interception.
What exactly do the Bears envision being Weatherford’s role? Surely, he will contribute on special teams out of the gate, but one has to wonder where exactly he fits on defense.
Is he a backup Will linebacker? Will Weatherford play more of a hybrid role as a cover backer? Either way, defensive coordinator Alan Williams must be chomping at the bit to get his hands on the talented – and versatile – rookie.
TE Trevon Wesco
Lastly, Trevon Wesco is a tight end that has three years under his belt in the NFL. He was cut from the Jets after only compiling six catches for 87 yards in 40 games since 2019.
In their offense, he was used both as a full back and tight end. So, he does provide the Bears with some flexibility in that regard. Last season for the Jets, he played 51 snaps as a full back and 104 snaps at tight end, according to PFF.
After releasing James O’Shaughnessey, it was only a matter of time before the Bears addressed the position.
It was expected that the Bears would be active on the waiver wire, but the fact that they nearly accounted for 20 percent of all waiver claims just shows how much work Poles is putting in as he continues to fine-tune his roster.
He brought in a solid veteran to bolster the defensive line, a young offensive lineman that was drafted in the first round in 2021 to roll the dice on and some intriguing young players to develop along the way.
All in all, a pretty solid job by the first-year GM.