The Bears are starting over at both tackle positions.
The team released starting left tackle Charles Leno on Monday. Leno announced his impending release in posts on Twitter and Instagram.
Leno had started 93 consecutive regular season games for the Bears dating back to 2015. It was a remarkable run for a player who was drafted in the seventh round in 2014. Leno went 246th overall (out of a possible 256 picks that year) out of Boise State.
The Bears made the news official in a press release later Monday afternoon.
The Bears already released former right tackle Bobby Massie earlier in the offseason. The team drafted two tackles over the weekend: Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins and Missouri’s Larry Borom. Drafting a pair of tackles signaled Leno’s days in Chicago might be numbered, and that was indeed the case.
“My time in Chicago has officially come to an end,” Leno wrote on social media. “It’s a bittersweet day but I am excited to see where this next chapter takes me.”
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bears intend to designate Leno a post-June 1 release. Doing so saves the team about $3 million more than if they were to cut him prior to June 1. In total, the Bears will save $9 million in salary cap space by cutting Leno in early June.
Teams are allowed to announce post-June 1 releases prior to June 1, but Leno will still technically count against their salary cap until that date. That allows such players to seek out free agency opportunities immediately.
With Leno on the roster, the Bears are right up against the cap. The $9 million in savings should be plenty of space to fit the rookies the Bears just drafted and likely leaves some breathing room.
The move also means that second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins could be the Bears’ starting left tackle come Week 1. Even though most of his college experience was at right tackle, the Bears see Jenkins on either side.
“The great thing about him is he’s played both guard spots and both tackle spots,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday night after drafting Jenkins. “He’s played more right tackle, but he played — there’s two games of starting tackle tape at left tackle in 2019. You go back and look. I think it’s Texas Tech and Baylor. He’s at left tackle in both those games. There’s plenty of left tackle tape. So we feel that he can play both tackle positions and we’ve just got to sort through that.”
Borom played right tackle at Missouri all of last season and much of the 2019 season. The Bears also re-signed Germain Ifedi, who finished the 2020 season as their right tackle. Free agent signing Elijah Wilkinson also has NFL experience at right tackle.
Jenkins said he practices every position on the offensive line, even center.
“That’s one thing I’ve been working on this past offseason and even before that,” Jenkins said. “I even tell coach, ‘Let me get some snaps at left tackle in practice, just in case anything goes down.’ I just carried myself through practice in that manner and just kept on going that way. I feel like I could play any position.”