When the Chicago Bears signed veteran Riley Reiff to a one-year deal worth up to $12.5 million on July 26, many assumed he would be the team’s starter at either left or right tackle.
But two of the team’s promising second-year offensive linemen, Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins, have taken hold of starting spots on the O-Line in recent weeks, and now, Borom is set to start at right tackle when the regular season kicks off for Chicago on September 11.
Jenkins, who struggled at tackle leading up to the preseason, has shuffled over to right guard, where he has impressed head coach Matt Eberflus and company. While Eberflus hasn’t said Jenkins will be one of the team’s starting five on the offensive line, he did confirm Borom is on pace to be a starter.
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Where Does This Leave Reiff?
As first reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Reiff’s contract is structured in a way that benefits the Bears. He’ll earn a $3 million base salary and is eligible for another $4.5 million “if he is on field for 10% of offensive snaps and if the team improves in any of 6 offensive categories,” per Biggs, who noted he didn’t know what the six categories were. Another $2.5 million of Reiff’s deal with “is tied to playing time and there is a $2M playoff bonus,” Biggs added.
Thus less Reiff is on the field, the less he makes.
Where does this leave Reiff? Is he a backup now? Eberflus wouldn’t say. “We’ll let that play out,” the Bears coach said on August 20. “We’ll see where it is with him. We’re working through that with the offensive line. It’s been a lot of pieces to the puzzle. We will see where that goes.”
“I’m here to help anybody,” Reiff said in his first press conference after the Bears signed him. “I’m an open book. We’re just trying to win games, whatever it takes. We’ve got a lot of young, talented guys in the room. Whatever I can do to help them, I’m on board with it.”
Spoken like a true veteran.
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Borom & Jenkins in the Starting 5 Is Best for Bears
If Borom and Jenkins retain their starting spots and continue to grow, Chicago will be in a decent place where its O-Line is concerned. Having younger players start while also having durable veterans on the bench is an ideal situation.
The Bears’ former regime moved up to select Jenkins in Round 2 of the 2021 draft, and after missing a significant chunk of his rookie season due to back surgery, the young OL had to impress the new regime while also trying to make up for lost time. He has really come on after getting moved to guard.
Borom, a 2021 fifth-round pick out of Missouri, wound up playing in 10 games last season, starting eight. He played 633 snaps on offense, allowing five sacks, four QB hits and32 pressures while getting flagged four times, per PFF.
“He’s been consistent,” Eberflus said about Borom after the team’s August 20 practice. “He’s been relatively consistent. He’s doing a good job in there. Right now, he’s in that position as a starter. He’s got competition behind him and we’ll see what happens and see if he can sustain that execution all the way through.”
With rookie fifth-rounder Braxton Jones set to start at left tackle, the Bears have a solid corps of linemen who should be able to grow together. Veterans Lucas Patrick (center) and Cody Whitehair (left guard) will round out the starting five, although Patrick is still out indefinitely with a hand injury.
Who’s the Backup Swing Tackle Now?
That should be Reiff, although the Bears have others vying for the role, as well.
Julien Davenport, Jean Delance and Shon Coleman are three other swing tackle candidates, but none have impressed so far in the preseason.
Chicago also inked veteran guard Michael Schofield to a league minimum deal, with a base salary of around $1.2 million. None of his money is guaranteed, but he’s looking to be a backup at guard.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen,” Eberflus added. “We’re changing combinations, adjusting combinations. As you have seen over the course of training camp, a lot of things have changed. A lot of adjustments going on. It’s about guys who can sustain the performance, can sustain execution, and then take that to the first week. So we’ll let that play out and we’ll see where it is.”
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