The Chicago Bears still have some work to do in order to improve the protection for quarterback Justin Fields on their offensive line for the 2023 season, and it just so happens that a quality starting tackle is now on the trade market.
According to ESPN’s Ben Baby, Cincinnati Bengals starting left tackle Jonah Williams has requested a trade after the team signed four-time Pro Bowl tackle and Super Bowl champion Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency to become their new left tackle. Williams was a first-round pick (No. 11 overall) for the Bengals in 2019 and has logged 2,779 snaps at left tackle for their offense over the past three seasons, which is the type of experience the Bears could stand to gain for their talent-depleted offensive line.
As things stand now, the Bears have PFWA All-Rookie Braxton Jones set to return as one of their starting offensive tackles with Alex Leatherwood and Larry Borom the next-best two behind him in the pecking order. Chicago is also losing veteran starter Riley Reiff from last year’s group after he signed with the New England Patriots this week, according to a report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini.
With Williams available, Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton believes the Bears are the “best team fit” on the market for him and even proposed the framework for a trade that would only see Chicago give up a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick to acquire him.
“Last year, the Chicago Bears took a flier on offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, whom the Las Vegas Raiders selected in the first round of the 2021 draft and then waived last August. They didn’t have to give up draft capital for him, though general manager Ryan Poles should offer a third- or fourth-round pick to Cincinnati for Williams, who’s also a former first-rounder (2019) with 42 starts on his resume,” Moton wrote. “Perhaps the Bears would experiment with Williams at right tackle following his rough year on the left side.”
Would Jonah Wiliams Be Worthwhile for the Bears?
Williams would objectively be an upgrade for the Bears’ offensive tackle room purely from a talent standpoint, but would he actually be the missing piece they need?
Williams is young (25) and has the necessary experience, but there are legitimate questions about his ability to be a long-term solution for the Bears — or any team –at left tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a career-high 12 sacks and 43 pressure over his 724 total pass-blocking snaps in 2022 and struggled even more as a run-blocker, receiving PFF’s third-lowest run-blocking grade (49.4) on a list of 36 tackles who played at least 80% of their team’s offensive snaps last season.
For comparison, Jones allowed just seven sacks and 40 total pressures for the Bears after being thrust into a full-time starting role at left tackle as a fifth-round rookie. He also graded out significantly better than Williams in every notable category.
Still, Williams is going to be one of the more affordable options left on the market if the Bears decide they still want to acquire a veteran tackle. The Bengals already picked up his fifth-year option for 2023, so his cap hit — without a new extension — is locked in as $12.604 million, according to Over the Cap.
In essence, the Bears could give up a little bit of draft capital (a fourth-rounder is preferable, as Chicago owns two — to take a one-year flier on Williams as their new starting tackle and then either cut bait or extend him depending on the result.
Bears Might Prefer to Draft 1st-Round OT Instead
The Bears have the resources to make a trade for a veteran offensive tackle, but it might make even more sense for them to simply sign a free agent that suits their scheme and then use their No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft to select a future starter.
Sitting ninth in the order, the Bears could potentially have their choice of either Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski when their turn comes. They have already started doing their homework on Skoronski, while Johnson got to build a little rapport with Fields during their one season together at Ohio State; although, Johnson was a second-stringer and not one of Fields’ starting tackles. Either way, drafting one of them could give the Bears a long-term solution at the tackle spot.
Now, Williams could still be a solution for the Bears even if they plan to target an offensive tackle with their first-round pick. Jones, Williams and a top-level rookie would make the room much sturdier in the event of an injury, while Williams’ size and length also suit him to play on the interior, making him a versatile safeguard option. The price to get both Williams and a top rookie might be too steep, though, with the Bears also needing to add quality, future-starter piece to their defense in the draft.
Whoever wrote this should never write another football article again. You want the bears to trade a 3rd rounder for a guy who is one of the worst tackles in football, when they already have a starter at LT that was just acquired for a 5th in the draft? The Bears need a good RT, not a bad LT.
Oh, and you want to blow a 12 million-dollar hole in our cap for the privilege? Sheesh, what a dumb idea.