Bears claim 2021 1st-round OL Alex Leatherwood, 5 others

The Bears’ extreme roster makeover continued Wednesday when new general manager Ryan Poles claimed a whopping six players off the waiver wire.

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A photo of Bears offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood playing for the Raiders in a recent preseason game.

New Bears offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood was the No. 17 overall pick in 2021.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Bears general manager Ryan Poles claimed a league-high six players off the waiver wire Wednesday, including offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, who was the No. 17 overall pick just a year ago.

Leatherwood started 41 games over his final three seasons at Alabama. He struggled at right tackle for the Raiders last year before moving to right guard. He started all 17 games.

Coach Matt Eberflus said the Bears were surprised he was available.

“We’re excited to have him and we’ll see where he goes from here,” said Eberflus, whose Colts once acquired future Pro Bowl safety Kenny Moore via waivers. “It’s a clean slate, it’s a fresh start for him.”

The Bears consulted assistant offensive line coach Austin King and defensive coach Travis Smith, who both were in Las Vegas last year. Eberflus also checked in with his mentor, Rod Marinelli, who spent the last two years as a Raiders assistant.

By claiming Leatherwood, the Bears inherit the final three years of his rookie contract. He signed a four-year, $14.4 million deal as a rookie, though the Raiders have already paid him a $7.8 million signing bonus. The Bears could eventually extend his fifth-year option for 2025 if they so choose.

“His run blocking is really good,” Eberflus said. “He’s got good balance when it comes to that. He stays on guys. That’s what we like about him the most right now. He’s got to develop his game. He’s a young player and we’ve got some really good coaches to help him.”

The Bears also claimed cornerback Josh Blackwell from the Eagles, tight end Trevon Wesco from the Jets, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan from the Bills, defensive tackle Armon Watts from the Vikings and linebacker Sterling Weatherford from the Colts.

Watts, who started nine games for the Vikings last year but was out of place when they switched to a 3-4 defense during the offseason, figures to play right away. To make room for him, the Bears cut defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.

They also waived cornerback Duke Shelley, linebacker Caleb Johnson and guard Zach Thomas. The Bears released linebacker Joe Thomas and put receiver Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve.

Sharpe won’t play again this season because of a rib injury, a disappointing development for one of the league’s shallowest receiver rooms. 

Building the practice squad

The Bears added 14 players to their practice squad on Wednesday, and figure to add two more before the end of the week. The squad includes third-string quarterback Nathan Peterman, tight end Chase Allen, receiver Isaiah Coulter, running back Darrynton Evans, offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons and receiver Nsimba Webster.

Defenders on the squad include linemen Trevon Coley and Micah Dew-Treadway (who went to Bolingbrook High School), plus linebacker DeMarquis Gates, defensive lineman Sam Kamara, cornerback Davontae Harris, safety A.J. Thomas and cornerback Thomas Graham Jr.

This and that

Eberflus said he didn’t know whether the Bears would put receiver N’Keal Harry on IR as he recovers from ankle surgery. An IR trip would require him to miss four games.

—- Eberflus said the Bears hope center Lucas Patrick, who had thumb surgery in late July, can return to practice next week.

—- No Bears players waived Tuesday were claimed by another team.

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