Another former Chicago Bears starter from the Ryan Pace era is taking up with the Detroit Lions for the upcoming 2023 season.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Lions are signing veteran offensive lineman Germain Ifedi to their 90-man offseason roster, bringing the 28-year-old back to the NFC North after previously spending two seasons as a starter in Chicago.
Ifedi played both right guard and right tackle during his two seasons with the Bears, starting in 23 of his 25 appearances for them between 2020 and 2021. While he only yielded four sacks (two in each season) over that time, the Bears decided not to bring him back for a third year when Ryan Poles took over as general manager in 2022.
After Chicago, Ifedi became one of several former Bears players to follow Pace to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2022 season, but the familiarity in the front office did not lead to significant playing time for the former first-round pick. Ifedi was relegated to a small-time special teams role in his lone season with the Falcons and managed to play on just eight total offensive snaps, none of which tasked him to be a pass-blocker.
With the Lions, Ifedi will have an opportunity to put his career back on the right track, offering veteran tackle depth behind starters Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell for 2023.
Germain Ifedi Fizzled Out With Bears in 2 Seasons
Ifedi signed a one-year contract with the Bears in 2020 and became an every-game starter for them, splitting his 1,066 snaps between guard and tackle on the right side of their offensive line. While he gave up the second-most pressures (25) and committed the second-most penalties (five) on the line, he only surrendered two sacks on the year and displayed enough positional versatility to earn a one-year, $4.25 million extension.
Things got rougher for Ifedi in his second year in Chicago, though. The Bears kept Ifedi around after releasing veteran right tackle Bobby Massey during the 2021 offseason, hoping he would provide them with much-needed depth, but he was instead limited to nine games — with just seven starts — due to a knee injury that landed him on IR.
The bigger disappointment with Ifedi in 2021 was his on-field interactions with his teammates. One instance that particularly riled the Bears fan base was in Week 15 when Minnesota Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum launched quarterback Justin Fields as he was going out of bounds and then-rookie Teven Jenkins confronted Wonnum, throwing a punch in defense of his quarterback that drew a penalty for the Bears.
Not long after, Ifedi was seen pushing Jenkins and lecturing him on the field about his actions, a decision that he defended the following week, much to the ire of Bears fans. While Poles never said anything directly about the incident when he took over a few months later, he made it clear that Jenkins’ body language and willingness to stand up for his quarterback was much more in line with what he wanted than Ifedi’s approach.
“It agitates me to see a quarterback get hit and be on the ground — and I watch the five guys and their body language,” Poles said in 2022, via The Athletic.
“If I see my guy on the ground, I’m running over there, getting him up, making sure he’s clean, ready to go. I don’t know if I saw that enough in the tape that I watched, and that’s critical. And also to protect your guy. If you see something cheap, something dirty, you need to set the tone that that’s not gonna happen, because if you do let it happen once, it’s going to happen over and over and next thing you know, your quarterback is hurt. So that [nastiness] mentality is critical and is something we need to add.”
Bears Could Use Another Veteran Offensive Tackle
As a whole, the Bears are in a more hopeful place with their offensive line than they were when Ifedi was a starter for them. They struck gold in 2022 with fifth-rounder Braxton Jones looking like a potential long-term solution for them at left tackle. They also used their No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 draft to shore up the other tackle spot on their line, selecting Tennessee standout Darnell Wright to pair with Jones in the lineup.
Two promising young starters, though, doesn’t change the fact that they could still use some more quality depth behind them for the 2023 season.
The only serviceable options the Bears currently have to back up Jones and Wright are Larry Borom and Alex Leatherwood. Borom has played more than 1,000 snaps at tackle over his first two seasons in Chicago, but the 2021 fourth-round pick has also given up 10 sacks and 46 total pressures over that span and is hardly trustworthy as a swing option. Meanwhile, Leatherwood — a first-round castaway — is even less dependable.
Now, the Bears seem likely to at least give Borom and Leatherwood the opportunity to compete as their primary backup tackles, but there is little stopping them from adding a more experienced competitor to the mix on the free agent market. Cameron Fleming seemed like a good choice before he signed with the Denver Broncos on May 24, but perhaps George Fant or Taylor Lewan could still interest them.