The Chicago Bears will charge hard at several of the NFL’s best free agents this offseason, including those along the offensive line.
General manager Ryan Poles is projected to have more than $117 million in projected salary cap space at his disposal this offseason and one of the top priorities will be protecting QB Justin Fields for the next decade, give or take. A good place to start, and a place league insiders believe the Bears are incredibly likely to look, is with former Pro-Bowler Elgton Jenkins.
The versatile guard/tackle combo is something of a two-for-one, not just because he plays multiple positions at a high level but because he is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers — meaning if the Bears sign him, they undercut one of their most loathed rivals while getting well in the meantime.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus recently ranked Jenkins as the fifth-best free agent set to hit the market in 2023, noting further that Chicago is highly likely to make a strong run at the star offensive lineman.
“The Chicago Bears with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coming over from Green Bay this past offseason could not be a more ideal fit for [Jenkins’] services,” Spielberger wrote. “If the Packers don’t work out an extension or place the tag on Jenkins, expect [the Bears] to throw a literal bag at one of the league’s most versatile offensive linemen.”
Jenkins Has Bounced Back Strong Following ACL Injury Last Season
The Packers selected Jenkins with the 44th overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he has not disappointed since.
Green Bay has deployed Jenkins across the entirety of its offensive line, watching him excel in every spot. Per PFF, Jenkins has career position grades above 65.0 at four of the five spots on the O-line. Spielberger pointed out that the only spot in which he hasn’t put up that kind of performance is at right guard, and that is only because he hasn’t played enough snaps at the position to qualify.
Jenkins earned Pro Bowl honors in 2020, starting all 16 games for the team and playing primarily at left guard. He moved to left tackle the following year where he performed exceptionally well before suffering an ACL injury that knocked him out halfway through the season.
He has returned to form this year, despite a few early injury setbacks, appearing in 11 of 13 games thus far and starting all of those. PFF currently lists Jenkins as the 13th best guard in the NFL out of 86 players qualifying at the position with an overall grade of 72.2.
Bears Have Questions at Tackle, May Also Address in NFL Draft
The Bears have a few questions along the offensive line, perhaps the most pertinent of which involves the team’s future plans at left tackle.
Fifth-round pick Braxton Jones has played every snap for Chicago during his rookie season. According to PFF, Jones is in the top 25% of performers at the tackle position (19th out of 80 qualifying players) with an overall grade of 74.0.
If the Bears look for an upgrade, or simply want to add some depth, they may try to address that issue early in the coming draft. Chicago owns the 56th overall pick in the second round via the trade the team made to send linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year.
Luke Easterling of Draft Wire predicted in his latest mock draft that the Bears will select University of Maryland left tackle Jaelyn Duncan with that pick. Duncan is 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weighs 315 pounds.
Drafting Duncan and bringing in Jenkins via free agency would go a long way toward solidifying the offensive line in front of Fields, who has proven himself as the clear future of the Bears franchise for many years to come.