If the Chicago Bears are still exploring the trade market for potential solutions at offensive tackle, they just lost the most elite option of the bunch.
According to ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime, the Houston Texans agreed to terms on a market-resetting extension with three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil on March 19. He will now protect the blindside of the Texans’ future rookie quarterback on a three-year contract worth a total of $75 million, which makes him the NFL’s highest-paid tackle.
Rumors have been swirling on and off for the past year about Houston potentially making Tunsil available in a trade. Most recently, longtime Texans insider Aaron Wilson had told Chancellor Johnson of KPRC 2 on March 14 that the Kansas City Chiefs were engaged in trade conversations with the Texans about Tunsil, describing the situation as “more than rumors, but doesn’t mean they will have an actual deal.”
Considering Bears general manager Ryan Poles was having talks with the Texans about a potential trade for the No. 1 overall pick before shipping it to Carolina — according to NBC Sports’ Peter King — it stands to reason he at least inquired about Tunsil.
Ultimately, though, Tunsil is staying in Houston and the Bears now have one less talent available to consider adding to their offensive tackle room for the 2023 season.
Bears’ Free Agent Options for OT Are Dwindling
The Bears are running out of options to improve their tackle position. Orlando Brown Jr., Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor, Kaleb McGary and Andre Dillard have all signed lucrative new contracts in the first week of free agency, while Isaiah Wynn, George Fant, Donovan Smith and Taylor Lewan are now considered the best on the market. There could be a quality fit in there somewhere, but it might be harder to find now.
The Bears might have no choice but to take a chance on someone, though, given the alternative is trusting a group of players who are either unproven or too young. There is reason to be optimistic with Braxton Jones after an All-Rookie-caliber season in 2022, but Alex Leatherwood (a trade castaway from the Las Vegas Raiders) and Larry Borom (a 2021 fifth-round pick) are the best options right now for their right tackle spot, and neither one of them has proven they are capable of becoming a full-time starter.
Even if the Bears invest their ninth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft into an offensive tackle, they could still benefit from having a veteran at the position who could offer the rest of the room leadership and experience to lean on.
Could Broderick Jones Tempt Bears With 9th Pick?
Whether the Bears go offense or defense with their 2023 first-round pick is anyone’s guess at this point. If the right defensive player falls to them at No. 9 overall — such as Georgia’s Jalen Carter or Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson — it is easy to see how they might decide to go in that direction. They generated the fewest sacks (20) in the league in 2022 and still need plenty of help in their defensive trenches despite adding Andrew Billings and DeMarcus Walker in the first wave of free agency.
If Poles leans toward an offensive selection, though, don’t be surprised if it is Broderick Jones’ name that is called when the Bears are officially on the clock.
Most of the mock drafts that predict the Bears to take an offensive tackle with the ninth overall pick either go with Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski as their selection, but Jones has just as much right to the claim of top offensive tackle in the class as they do. The Georgia standout is an ideal scheme fit for an outside-zone scheme like Chicago’s with the size (6-foot-5, 311 pounds), speed (4.97 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and length (34.75-inch arms) to get the job done well. He also has athleticism that puts him a notch above both Johnson and Skoronski.