The Chicago Bears are releasing veteran offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. As first reported by NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the move comes days after Chicago moved up in the second round to select tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round. Leno confirmed his release via Twitter minutes later, in which he succinctly reminded everyone about the impressive trajectory his seven-year career has taken:
“2014 7th round draft pick, 93 consecutive starts in the past 7 seasons with the team that I was drafted to. My time in Chicago has officially come to an end. It’s a bittersweet day but I am excited to see where this next chapter takes me,” Leno Tweeted Monday morning.
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Leno Has Been an Inconsistent, Yet Durable Presence on the Line
As he noted, the Bears took Leno in the seventh round in 2014 out of Boise State, and he has been their starter at left tackle for the last seven years. He played 1,060 snaps at the position last season, earning a 74.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Of those snaps, 694 were in pass protection, while 372 were run blocking. He allowed five sacks, seven quarterback hits and a whopping 42 hurries in 2020. He also drew six penalties, many of which were costly for the offense.
Considering Leno’s durability, the team releasing him is predominantly fiscally based. The 29-year-old left tackle will be a post-June cut, which will save the Bears $9 million against the cap next season, per Rapoport. Now, Chicago will look to two rookies in Jenkins and Larry Borom, the big offensive lineman out of Missouri the team selected in the fifth round, to fill out its o-line. It will be a risky move, but it could pay off.
Along with the #Bears drafting future LT Teven Jenkins, Chicago also took OL Larry Borom in the 5th. In a year where everyone is tight against the cap and forced to make tough financial decisions, the Bears save $9M with this move. It will be a post-June 1 cut. https://t.co/2yCxjTi1yI
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 3, 2021
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Bears O-Line Currently a Mystery Heading Into 2021 Season
After Chicago nabbed two very versatile offensive linemen in the draft, their lineup with the release of Leno and veteran Bobby Massie, who was cut in March, is one big question mark. Cody Whitehair is the likely left guard, and James Daniels should be at right guard. After that, it gets murkier. If Sam Mustipher stays at center, Jenkins could play left tackle and veteran Germain Ifedi could play on the right side. Borom is also an intriguing player to throw in this mix.
“Larry Borom from Missouri, just a versatile, big, powerful guy,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said after the draft. “Really transformed his body this spring when you look at. Moves really well on tape for his size. He lost of weight through the spring process and at his pro day we thought he moved around really well. That gives us confidence that his best football is ahead of him. He can play tackle. He can play guard. There’s some versatility with him.”
Forget Aaron Rodgers’ future. The Bears offensive line is the real beautiful mystery right now.