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Chicago Bears Offseason Preview: Offensive Line

Athlon Sports 2/3/2023 Gabe Salgado
© Provided by Athlon Sports

Here's a look at the offensive line positions for the Chicago Bears heading into the offseason.

After a 3-14 record in 2022, the rebuild is officially in full swing for the Chicago Bears. It technically began before the season started, although the Bears showed some flashes of hope early. But after finishing the year with a franchise-record 10-game losing streak, the team is again hitting the reset button. The Bears are projected to have more than $100 million in cap space when the 2023 league year begins and own the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.

Related: Chicago Bears Offseason Preview Quarterbacks and Running Backs

While the draft is an important part of building a team, you can't play rookies everywhere. You need to have some veterans in the mix as well, and the Bears have some players from the '22 roster who deserve to stick around. There is a lot of work that needs to be done with the offensive line, however. This group yielded 58 sacks, a number exceeded by just three other teams. Some of the issues with pass protection stem from Justin Fields holding onto the ball too long. His 3.12-second average time to throw was fourth longest in the league last season. But the bottom line is that Chicago had the worst passing attack in the league (130.5 ypg), although the Bears were on the opposite end of the leaderboard in rushing offense (177.3 ypg).

Injuries plagued the offensive line rotation throughout the season, so the constant shuffling of lineups and personnel also contributed to the group's inconsistent play. Add everything up, and it made play-calling difficult at times for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus know the line has to play better in order to put Fields in the best position to succeed and for this offense to reach its full potential. That means changes are coming this offseason. For now, here are the offensive linemen currently on the roster.

Teven Jenkins, T/G

After an injury-plagued rookie season in 2021, the 39th overall pick from that draft was hoping to rebound. But that didn't go as planned either. Reported disagreements with the coaching staff had Jenkins sit out part of the offseason program, then he expressed disappointment with being moved to right guard during the preseason. Jenkins eventually accepted the move and embraced it. 

But more injuries limited him to just 13 games (11 starts), including a neck injury in Week 15 that resulted in him getting carted off the field on a stretcher. He missed the next game but played in Week 17 before ending the season on injured reserve. Depending on who is added through free agency and the draft, Jenkins will likely enter training camp as the projected starter at one of the guard spots.

Related: Chicago Bears Offseason Preview Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Braxton Jones, T

The 168th overall pick from last year's draft definitely made an impact as a rookie. Jones took full advantage of the opportunities he got to prove himself during training camp and the preseason and ended up starting all 17 games. While he certainly played like a rookie at times, Jones finished the season ranked eighth among qualifying offensive tackles last season with a 93 percent pass block win rate. Jones may not be a franchise left tackle but he figures to be a big part of the Bears' plans up front for the foreseeable future.

Larry Borom, T

Borom was in the same draft class as Jenkins and has made 17 starts while playing in 23 games in his first two seasons. He was the initial starter at right tackle last season before eventually being supplanted by Riley Reiff. Borom will remain a part of the rotation moving forward but his exact spot (he played some guard late season) and role will both need to be determined.

Riley Reiff, T

Reiff signed a one-year deal with the Bears in late July after starting 12 games for the AFC champion Bengals in 2021. He played in 16 games and eventually replaced Larry Borom as the starting right tackle (10 starts). He's a pending free agent and the 34-year-old veteran may not fit in the team's plans or he may prefer to instead sign with a contender.

Alex Leatherwood, T

It says a lot that the Raiders were willing to move on from the 17th overall pick in 2021 so quickly, but Leatherwood is looking for a fresh start with the Bears. The Raiders even tried moving Leatherwood to guard during the 2022 preseason before releasing him. Leatherwood didn't exactly make a positive first impression with the Bears either. He started on the reserve/non-football illness list and only played in four games. The team also shifted him to guard to see how he would fare. Leatherwood still has two years left on his contract and the cost is not exorbitant (roughly $4.6 million) so chances are he will get another opportunity this offseason and training camp to prove himself.

Kellen Diesch, T

Diesch initially signed with Miami as an undrafted rookie free agent, but the Dolphins released him at the conclusion of the preseason. The Bears then signed him to the practice squad where he remained for the course of the regular season. The Bears gave him a reserve/future contract for 2023.

Lucas Patrick, G

As the prized free agent acquisition of the 2022 offseason, Patrick was expected to be a building block for the new Bears regime. Having previously played for the archrival Packers (2016-21), Patrick was expected to be the starting center for new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who also came over from Green Bay. The hope was that Patrick would bring stability and provide leadership to the new-look offensive line. Unfortunately, a thumb injury caused him to miss most of training camp and the entire preseason.

Patrick was ready to play in Week 1 but the injury prevented him from being able to snap the ball so he split time at both guard spots. He was starting by Week 3 but then a toe injury ended his season after seven games. Depending on the other offseason moves made, Patrick may get another shot at center or he could stay at guard. He's signed for one more year but his contract is structured in a way that the team also could cut him and not take a significant cap hit ($1.5 million).

Michael Schofield, G

Like Riley Rieff, Schofield also signed in late July to provide the Bears with a veteran presence up front. He was cut late in the preseason but injuries necessitated a return in mid-September. He appeared in 11 games and made five starts before finishing the season on IR with a knee injury. He's a pending free agent again and the 32-year-old veteran probably doesn't factor into the team's plans for 2023.

Ja'Tyre Carter, G

The Bears chose Carter in the seventh round of last year's draft, but he only appeared in three games toward the end of the season. Not exactly a big sample size in terms of evaluating talent. The Bears have him under contract for three more seasons, although almost none of the $3 million remaining is guaranteed. Still, he'll likely get more chances to prove himself in 2023.

Dakota Dozier, G

This nine-year veteran also was supposed to be an upgrade for this line, but Dozier didn't even make it to training camp. A leg injury during minicamps last summer prevented him from playing. Dozier will be a free agent and while it's possible the team will try and re-sign him, it's doubtful the Bears will make the soon-to-be 32-year-old a priority. 

Dieter Eiselen, G

Eiselen has gone back and forth between the practice squad and the active roster since joining the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Yale in 2020. He appeared in 11 games this past season, but most of his action was on special teams. Eiselen is about to become a free agent and while he certainly won't break the bank, there's no guarantee he will be re-signed.

Cody Whitehair, G/C

Whitehair is the only offensive lineman left from the 2018 NFC North championship team, and he's still holding up, even in his 30s. He ranked third among guards last season with a 77 percent run block win rate and fifth with a 96 percent pass block win rate. Injuries limited him to just 12 games this past season (all starts) as he switched back and forth between guard and center. His versatility has served him well during his time in Chicago. Whitehair's cap hit over the next two seasons is $27.35 million whereas the team could potentially save nearly half of that ($13.5 million dead cap hit) if they chose to release him. This will be one of the more interesting decisions regarding players currently on the roster that Poles will have to make. 

Sam Mustipher, C

This third-year player out of Notre Dame started the final 16 games at center. The multitude of injuries forced him into action, and for the most part, Mustipher held his own given the circumstances. He's proven himself to be reliable during his time in a Bears uniform — ranking ninth among centers last season with a 95 percent pass block win rate — and he's definitely been a team-first guy. Mustipher is a restricted free agent so the Bears will get the chance to match any offer he receives.

Doug Kramer, C

The Bears were high on this sixth-round draft pick out of Illinois, but a lower-body injury in training camp forced Kramer to miss his entire rookie season. After what was essentially a redshirt year, Kramer will get a fresh start this offseason and in training camp.

— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

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