The Chicago Bears took a monster step toward solidifying their offensive line in the NFL Draft. The franchise is now poised to make another leap in free agency.
Chicago used the No. 10 overall pick to select offensive tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee but didn’t return to the line with any of its nine subsequent selections. Teven Jenkins made a jump in 2022 while the Bears signed Nate Davis ahead of the draft, shoring up the guard positions. Meanwhile, general manager Ryan Poles recently voiced confidence in Cody Whitehair to function as the team’s center next season.
That leaves the left tackle position as the Bears’ primary concern along the offensive front, just ahead of addressing a general a lack of depth within the unit. Fifth-round pick Braxton Jones served in the role of LT as a rookie, starting all 17 games. However, an upgrade remains needed after Chicago finished 29th in the NFL by allowing 58 sacks.
George Fant Among Best NFL Pass Blockers Last Season
Fant isn’t a high-profile name, though he was better than good at protecting his QBs in 2022 and brings options to the Bears’ offensive line, as Spielberger noted.
It could be a good idea to add a cheaper veteran swing tackle with familiarity in a wide-zone rushing attack. … 2022 starter Larry Borom is not the worst insurance at tackle by any means, but a cheap flier on Fant to protect Justin Fields in case of emergency would be smart.
Injuries derailed his 2022 campaign, but the seventh-year tackle earned a career-high 75.1 pass-blocking grade in 2021, playing almost exclusively at left tackle. His 3.2% pressure rate allowed was the sixth lowest among tackles on the season.
Fant signed a three-year deal worth $27.3 million to join the Jets in 2020. He missed just four of 33 regular season games during his first two campaigns. However, injury issues sidelined Fant for more than half of last year. He will play in 2023 at the age of 31 years old. Spotrac projects Fant’s market value at $3.3 million annually over the course of a two-year contract.
Bears Options at LT Running Thin, Include Cameron Fleming
Chicago doesn’t have a significant number of options to improve at the tackle position moving forward now that the draft has concluded and a couple waves of free agency have already passed.
Another name mentioned on Spielberger’s list was that of Cameron Fleming, most recently of the Denver Broncos. Fleming served primarily as a backup through his first six NFL seasons. He became a regular starter with the New York Giants in 2020 before starting 19 of 20 games in which he was available for the Broncos over the past two years.
Fleming’s age and market value projection are essentially the same as Fant’s, and they are the two best tackles remaining in free agency based on Spielberger’s analytics assessment. While Spielberger named the Seattle Seahawks as the ideal fit for Fant, the Bears can’t be ruled out of the running for any potential fit at a position of need while they carry an NFL-leading $35.8 million in salary cap space.