Chicago Bears fans are understandably excited to see how their favorite team decides to make use of its NFL-leading cap space during the 2023 offseason with new wide receivers and defensive linemen atop many of their wishlists.
Could a proven veteran right tackle steal their eye and become a priority, though?
CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani recently pitched San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey as the one free agent he believes the Bears should prioritize when the new league year begins in mid-March, citing the need for better protection up front for quarterback Justin Fields after he was sacked a league-high 55 times in 2022.
“Three takeaways from the Bears offense in 2022: One, Justin Fields is a rising star,” Dajani wrote on February 3. “Two, he needs some help at wide receiver. Three, Fields also needs some help along the offensive line. McGlinchey is a 28-year-old right tackle who would be an automatic upgrade for the Bears.”
McGlinchey Has Held Steady Across 5 Seasons With Niners
McGlinchey, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, has been an above-average starting right tackle in the five seasons since replacing Trent Brown for San Francisco. He has played more than 1,000 snaps at the position in three of those seasons and held up nicely as both a run-blocker and a pass-protector, yielding just six sacks and three quarterback hits in his most recent outing in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus.
Toughness is also a major asset with McGlinchey. Not only did he bounce back strong in 2022 from a torn quadriceps muscle that cost him most of the 2021 season, but he also played more than half of the season with broken ribs without dropping the quality of his play. That’s not easy to do — and is exactly the type of stalwart the Bears need.
Now, there is a good chance the 49ers won’t even let McGlinchey reach free agent waters with two young quarterbacks — Trey Lance and Brock Purdy — likely to be competing for the starting job in 2023. At the moment, though, San Francisco only has about $8.1 million in cap space for next season and might decide they need to spend some of it on a veteran quarterback instead of risking it with two youngsters.
Should they go that route or decide that giving McGlinchey a big payout isn’t in their best interest, the Bears could have a prime opportunity to swoop in.
Signing McGlinchey Would Allow Bears to Focus on IOL
McGlinchey wouldn’t be a cure-all for the Bears’ offensive line woes, but it would be a nice step in the right direction in terms of getting Fields better protection up front. He would be a clear upgrade for one of the weakest spots on their line in 2022 and might even give them both of their starting tackles for the 2023 season, assuming the Bears still believe in the potential of All-Rookie selection Braxton Jones on the left side.
With someone like McGlinchey on board, the Bears could then shift their focus toward the interior of their line during the 2023 NFL draft. The only solid-lock piece they have between the tackles right now is Teven Jenkins, who impressed at the right guard spot after moving inside at the beginning of the 2022 season. The center position has been a disaster for the past few seasons, and while they do have veteran Cody Whitehair at the left guard spot, he turns 31 in July and is entering the more expensive years of his contract, making him a potential cap casualty for the Bears to consider.
That’s not to say the Bears will completely avoid the tackle position in the draft, but it would allow them to invest their earlier-round picks in stronger talent for the interior.