Bears claim 6 players off waivers, including former Raiders OL Alex Leatherwood

LAKE FOREST – The Bears are taking a chance on offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood.

General manger Ryan Poles and the Bears claimed the former Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman off waivers Wednesday. Leatherwood was the 17th overall draft pick in 2021, about 14 months ago. First-year Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels appeared to have given up on Leatherwood when Leatherwood failed to make the 53-man roster Tuesday and was waived.

The Bears claimed six total players off waivers Wednesday, including Leatherwood. Additionally, they claimed former Eagles defensive back Josh Blackwell, former Bills defensive end Kingsley Jonathan, former Vikings nose tackle Armon Watts, former Colts linebacker Sterling Weatherford and former Jets tight end Trevon Wesco.

In claiming Leatherwood, the Bears inherit the remainder of his rookie contract, which runs through the 2024 season. Since Leatherwood was a first-round pick, the Bears also have the opportunity to tack on a fifth-year option to his deal.

Leatherwood started all 18 games for the Raiders last season, including the playoffs. He began the year as the right tackle but struggled in that role and moved to guard midseason.

Coach Matt Eberflus’ Bears appeared to have solidified the offensive line in recent weeks with Larry Borom playing right tackle and Teven Jenkins playing right guard. Adding Leatherwood into the mix seems to indicate that things remain in flux.

Jenkins went on a wild ride during camp, moving from reserve right tackle to starting right guard in a matter of days. Jenkins said Tuesday that the guard position was beginning to feel “natural” to him. Asked if he expected to start in the season opener, Jenkins said, “That’s not for me to decide.”

“That’s up to [the front office], however they want to put it or however they want to answer that,” Jenkins said.

Even if Leatherwood doesn’t start, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for Poles to take a chance on a former first-round draft pick.

Eberflus said he spoke with several coaches who worked with Leatherwood before, including one of his coaching mentors, Rod Marinelli, who coached with the Raiders last year.

“One of the things when you look at him that stands out would be, No. 1, his run blocking,” Eberflus said. “His run blocking is really good. He’s got good balance when it comes to that. He stays on guys. That’s what we like about him the most right now. He’s got to develop his game. He’s a young player, and we’ve got some really good coaches to help him.”

Eberflus declined to say if Leatherwood would play tackle or guard.

Transactions update: In order to make room on the roster for those six waiver claims, the Bears waived linebacker Caleb Johnson, cornerback Duke Shelley, guard Zachary Thomas and defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga. The team also released veteran linebacker Joe Thomas and placed receiver Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve.

The Bears also signed 14 players to the practice squad. They have two open practice squad spots remaining.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.