The Chicago Bears have claimed six players off waivers, more than any other team in the NFL, according to the August 31 waiver wire.
The biggest name among the six is former Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, who was a first-round draft pick in 2021. The Bears also added defensive tackle Armon Watts, undrafted free agent DBs Josh Blackwell and Sterling Weatherford, defensive end Kingsley Johnathan, another UDFA, and former New York Jets tight end Trevin Wesco.
Leatherwood started all 17 games for the Raiders last year, but he was a selection of former head coach John Gruden, and after trying to trade the young O-Lineman throughout the preseason, Las Vegas and new head coach Josh McDaniels wound up waiving him. Now, the Bears will take a flier on the 17th overall pick of the 2021 draft.
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Leatherwood Is Low-Risk, High-Reward Signing for Bears
Leatherwood played his college ball at the University of Alabama, where he excelled over his four seasons, winning the Outland Trophy in 2020, which is awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman.
The 6-foot-6, 312-pound Leatherwood struggled as a rookie in 2021, allowing 65 total pressures, 17 QB hits and 8.0 sacks, also getting flagged 14 times in 1,104 total snaps, per PFF.
Where Leatherwood will land position-wise for Chicago is anyone’s guess. He played predominantly at right guard as a rookie, but at Alabama, he played left tackle for two years, so he’ll bring versatility to the Bears’ line.
While he struggled with the Raiders, perhaps all Leatherwood needs is a change of scenery and a new scheme. He’ll get that in Chicago working with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and O-Line coach Chris Morgan.
Leatherwood still has three years and $5.9 million fully guaranteed remaining on his contract, per NFL insider Ian Rapoport, so the Bears will likely see if they can work him into their starting rotation at some point.
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A Bit About the Rest
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Watts was a sixth-round (190th overall) selection for the Minnesota Vikings in 2019. He has played in 40 games for Minnesota over the last three seasons, starting 10. In that span, he has amassed 90 total tackles, three forced fumbles, 13 QB hits and 7.0 sacks.
Blackwell, an UDFA, played at Duke from 2017 to 2021, and he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an UDFA after the draft. He was released as part of the team’s final roster cuts.
Listed at 6-foot and 175 pounds on Duke’s official website, Blackwell is small but athletic, also serving as a part-time punt returner with the Blue Devils. He tallied 68 solo tackles, a fumble recovery and 20 passes defensed while at Duke, and will be another one to watch on special teams.
Weatherford signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an UDFA this year. He attended Miami (Ohio) from 2018 to 2021, where he played safety in 41 games and finished with 209 total tackles (10.5 tackles for loss), 3.0 sacks, four interceptions, 23 pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
Another likely contributor on special teams, the 6-foot-4, 224-pound Weatherford is an athletic safety-linebacker hybrid who proved to be an adept tackler in college.
Jonathan played defensive end at Syracuse, where he finished with 101 total tackles (60 solo, 21.5 for loss), three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15.0 sacks in 56 games. A native of Nigeria, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Jonathan signed with the Buffalo Bills as a UDFA after the draft, and was waived as part of the team’s final roster cuts.
The Jets selected Wesco in the fourth round (121st overall) out of West Virginia in 2019. Over his three seasons in New York, the 6-foot-4, 274-pound tight end played in 40 games (12 starts) and he caught six passes for 87 yards. He played in 34 games for West Virginia from 2016-2018, starting 12. He caught 28 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns with the Mountaineers before getting drafted b y the Jets.