Alex Leatherwood

Bears Place OL Alex Leatherwood On Reserve/NFI List

Alex Leatherwood‘s NFL career encountered another setback Wednesday. The recent Bears waiver claim will be placed on the team’s reserve/non-football illness list, according to Matt Eberflus.

This will sideline the 2021 first-round pick for at least four games. The Bears are bringing back Michael Schofield, who was with them in training camp, to replace Leatherwood on the 53-man roster, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Leatherwood is believed to have contracted mononucleosis, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Eberflus said Leatherwood is not at the team’s facility today. He did not play in the Bears’ Week 1 game. A 17-game Raiders starter last year, Leatherwood caught on with the Bears via waiver claim. The Raiders’ new regime bailed on the Jon GrudenMike Mayock-era O-line investment after this year’s training camp.

The Bears exited their camp with some questions on their O-line, and the team is attempting to salvage Leatherwood. The Alabama prospect, who was not expected to go in last year’s first round, has been working at right tackle with the Bears, Biggs adds. Leatherwood began his pro career as the Raiders’ right tackle starter, but the team moved him to guard early in his rookie year. McDaniels’ staff slid Leatherwood back to right tackle this offseason, and while the Raiders have significant questions at that particular position, they could not find a spot for the second-year blocker on their 53-man roster.

As expected, Chicago used fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones and 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom as its Week 1 tackle starters. Riley Reiff, 33, remains on the team as a swingman. Leatherwood’s hopes at competing for playing time will have to wait a while now. Three years remain on his rookie contract.

Schofield, 31, initially signed with the Bears just before training camp. The Illinois native has extensive experience at right guard and right tackle, having transitioned to guard after being a right tackle starter for the Broncos’ 2015 Super Bowl-winning team. The Chargers used Schofield as their primary right guard over the past five seasons; he joins Reiff as a 30-something second-stringer on the rebuilding Bears.

Teven Jenkins started at right guard for the Bears on Sunday, rotating with would-be center Lucas Patrick. The latter is poised to be Chicago’s center, but a July hand injury has altered that plan for now. Sam Mustipher started at center for the Bears against the 49ers.

Latest On New Bears OL Alex Leatherwood

Chicago landed quite the haul in waiver claims last week. Perhaps the most intriguing of the six claims they made is former-Raiders offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood. After being selected 17th-overall in last year’s draft, the Alabama product failed to survive this year’s 53-man roster cuts, much to the benefit of the Bears’ offensive line group. 

The move could also benefit the 23-year-old, as well, as some in league circles see Chicago as a better scheme-fit for Leatherwood, according to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus. The improved fit doesn’t exactly mean that we can expect Leatherwood to become an immediate starter in Chicago, though.

The guard spots are currently manned by Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins. Rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones has exploded onto the scene and seized the starting job at left tackle, pushing Riley Reiff to right tackle and Larry Borom to the bench as a backup. So where exactly does Leatherwood fit into the picture?

To start his career with the Bears, Leatherwood has been practicing at right tackle, according to Adam Jahns of The Athletic. General manager Ryan Poles asserted that they expect to work Leatherwood at guard, too, though.

“We all believe in player development here, and we’ve put pieces in place to allow players to be their best selves,” Poles told reporters. “So we’re going to approach that in many different ways, and we’re going to give (Leatherwood) an opportunity to develop and grow. Forget the draft pick thing. That’s over. So let’s start from the ground floor. Let’s build you up and take your time and whatever that is, we want to put him in the best position to succeed.”

The good news for Leatherwood is that his versatility allows him more positions in which to find success. In college, Leatherwood began as the primary backup to starting left tackle Jonah Williams. Unable to keep him off the field, Nick Saban and company decided to start him at right guard as a sophomore. He moved back to left tackle for his junior and senior seasons winning the Outland Trophy as a senior. The Raiders attempted to start Leatherwood at tackle as a rookie but, after some persistent struggles, the team moved him inside to guard, where he started the remainder of the season.

It will likely be an adjustment for Leatherwood to be forced into a backup role, but the change may be just what he needs to develop and learn to play at the NFL level. And Chicago may be the perfect place for him to do so. The Bears are in a bit of a rebuilding stage and do not expect to be in contention enough to require immediate success out of Leatherwood. Additionally, we’ve seen very recent success stories of offensive line development from the Bears with young players like Jones and Jenkins making impressive progress in their short time with the team.

So this is where we’re at with Leatherwood: the second-year lineman has been given a second chance in a scheme better fit for him and on a roster that doesn’t pressure him for immediate success. Putting it all in this perspective makes it easy to see how the addition can be a win-win scenario for Leatherwood and the Bears.

Wednesday NFL Transactions: NFC North

Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These BearsLions, Packers and Vikings moves are noted below.

Here are Wednesday’s NFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.

Chicago Bears

Claimed:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Detroit Lions

Claimed:

Waived:

Released from IR:

Signed to practice squad:

Green Bay Packers

Signed:

Waived: 

Signed to practice squad:

Minnesota Vikings

Waived:

Bears Claim OL Alex Leatherwood

After a woeful Raiders tenure, Alex Leatherwood will have a second chance via the NFL’s waiver system. The Bears put in a claim for the former first-round pick, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

The Raiders bailed on Leatherwood after one season, marking a shocking freefall for last year’s No. 17 overall pick. The Bears, however, have also run into extensive O-line uncertainty. The rebuilding team will take a chance on the former Alabama prospect. Leatherwood’s signing bonus is the Raiders’ responsibility, leaving considerable dead money on Las Vegas’ cap sheet. But the Bears are now responsible for $5.9MM in Leatherwood salary.

Chicago, which changed up its roster considerably as it transitioned to a new GM-HC pairing this offseason, made five more waiver claims Wednesday. Defensive tackle Armon Watts, defensive back Josh Blackwell, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan, linebacker Sterling Weatherford and tight end Trevon Wesco will be en route to the Windy City as well, Yates tweets. The Bears’ six waiver claims are a league-high total this year.

This marks quite a haul for Chicago, which added former starters from Las Vegas and Minnesota. Watts started nine games for the Vikings last season, replacing the injured Michael Pierce, but the team changed defensive schemes this offseason and made a trade for former Texans second-round defensive tackle Ross Blacklock on Tuesday. That led Watts off the roster. But he will be back in a 4-3 scheme under Matt Eberflus, whose team cleared some D-tackle space by releasing Mario Edwards on Tuesday.

Viewed as a reach in last year’s first round, Leatherwood did not justify his draft slot when deployed at right tackle or right guard for the Raiders last season. The staff that drafted Leatherwood quickly moved him off right tackle, but Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the league’s worst guards. Despite the Raiders facing a few questions on their offensive line and losing Brandon Parker for the season, their new regime cut bait after trying Leatherwood at tackle again in training camp.

The Bears are expected to start fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle, and they have 2021 fifth-rounder Larry Borom on the right side. Riley Reiff, who signed with the team shortly before camp, is also in the tackle picture. The team moved 2021 second-rounder Teven Jenkins from tackle to guard late this offseason, and while Jenkins appeared in trade rumors, he is on the roster and may well start the season at the new position. Leatherwood, his early-career struggles notwithstanding, may now also be a factor at that spot.

Raiders Trim Roster To 53 Players

The Raiders have been busy today, trading former second-round cornerback Trayvon Mullen to the Cardinals for a conditional seventh-round pick. The Raiders have since completed their 53-man roster, cutting a number of players:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

Keelan Cole started 11 of his 15 games for the Jets last season, finishing with 28 receptions for 449 yards and one touchdown. He was expected to serve as an end-of-the-depth-chart option at wide receiver (and in the return game), but he ultimately lost out on the gig to Tyron Johnson and DJ Turner. Wideout Dillon Stoner and Isaiah Zuber were also candidates for the fourth or fifth receiver gig, but they were cut.

Matthias Farley saw time in all 17 games for the Titans last season, finishing with 16 tackles. He has extensive special teams experience, but the Raiders ended up pivoting to younger options to round out their roster, Darius Phillips was also a candidate to contribute on special teams following a 2021 campaign where he returned 25 punts for the Bengals.

Austin Walter had a career-high 28 touches for the Jets last offseason, but he wasn’t able to crack the Raiders roster even with the release of Kenyan Drake. The Raiders RB room is still plenty crowded, with Josh Jacobs, rookie fourth-round pick Zamir White, special teams ace Brandon Bolden, rookie seventh-round pick Brittain Brown, and veteran Ameer Abdullah all earning roster spots.

Raiders To Waive OL Alex Leatherwood

The Raiders are bailing on the Alex Leatherwood experiment after one season. Despite going in the 2021 first round, Leatherwood will be waived Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

A surprise pick at the time, Leatherwood did not do much to impress either of the two Raiders regimes to come through during his time in Las Vegas. The Dave ZieglerJosh McDaniels regime will cut bait despite three seasons remaining on his rookie contract.

That contract will now turn into a big dead-money hit for the Raiders. By cutting Leatherwood before his second season, the Raiders will be tagged with more than $11MM in dead cap. While that can be spread through 2023, with $7.9MM staying on Vegas’ payroll this year, the defrayed signing bonus hits will lead to one of the bigger dead-cap hits on a rookie contract in recent memory. But the Raiders could not find a place for Leatherwood, after trying him at both tackle and guard.

All options were believed to be on the table with Leatherwood, whom the team attempted to trade. His 2021 performance, contract and perception as a first-round reach certainly impacted those efforts.

The Raiders quickly moved Leatherwood to right guard last season, and Pro Football Focus viewed the Alabama product as one of the league’s worst guard regulars. A move back to tackle did not take. Even after Brandon Parker was lost for the season in training camp, Leatherwood could not seize the gig.

Las Vegas’ O-line plan as a whole has been unusual throughout this offseason. With the exception of left tackle Kolton Miller, the Raiders bring question marks at their other spots. Although Andre James is fairly established at center, though his extension was authorized by the Jon Gruden regime, the team has glaring issues on the right side of its O-line. Ex-Patriot spot starter Jermaine Eluemunor has been a big factor at right tackle, while Lester Cotton — a UDFA who has played in five career games and never started any — has worked as the team’s starting right guard. The Raiders seem primed to scour the waiver wire in the coming hours.

Leatherwood’s departure obviously also shifts the spotlight back to the Gruden-Mike Mayock drafts. Leatherwood and 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette are gone. Clelin Ferrell has long been shifted to a backup role, and his status with the Raiders is tenuous. The new Raiders front office also did not pick up the fifth-year options on fellow 2019 first-rounders Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram. After the team traded Reggie McKenzie-era first-rounders Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and accumulated first-round capital, there is little to show for those moves.

Raiders RT Brandon Parker Out For Season

The Raiders’ right tackle competition has seen an unfortunate development. Per a team announcement, projected starter Brandon Parker has been placed on injured reserve, ending his 2022 season. 

The 26-year-old was in line to operate with the first team, but suffered an injury which was recently confirmed as being serious. In his absence, Vegas had several options available as replacements, and were subsequently reported to not be eyeing a free agent addition.

Parker has starting experience dating back, primarily, to his rookie season and the 2021 campaign. He re-upped with the team in free agency on a one-year deal worth $3.5MM, a contract which would have given the team a cost-effective lineman and allowed the former third-rounder to earn a more lucrative pact next offseason. Instead, his market will be weighed down by this year-long absence.

For the past few weeks, Vegas has weighed their options at the position, which include veteran Jermaine Eluemunor, seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford and 2021 first-rounder Alex Leatherwood. The latter struggled during his rookie season, resulting in a shift to guard. He has been similarly underwhelming during this offseason, potentially leaving his roster spot in jeopardy despite his age and draft status. Indeed, the team’s braintrust – now featuring GM Dave Ziegler and HC Josh McDaniels – has explored the possibility of trading Leatherwood, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

Between that possibility and a minor ailment for Munford, Eluemunor can be considered the RT favorite at least to start the season. Especially given the expectations surrounding the Raiders, though, that spot (along with the 0-line as a whole) will be heavily scrutinized, particularly if Vegas holds firm on using internal options to replace Parker.

The team also confirmed on Sunday that defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster and linebacker Tae Davis have been placed on IR. Lancaster had been a rotational presence throughout his four-year Packers tenure before signing in May; Davis, meanwhile, primarily played on special teams with the Giants and Browns to begin his career. He missed the 2021 campaign, and had recently been released by the Texans.

Latest On Raiders’ Alex Leatherwood

Much remains in doubt along the Raiders’ offensive line just two weeks away from the beginning of the regular season. Part of the team’s decisions relate to Alex Leatherwood and where he lines up, but it is not a given at this point that he will be on the roster to start the regular season. 

Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that “all options are on the table” with respect to the team’s handling of last year’s 17th overall pick. That could include simply moving him back inside from right tackle to right guard, after his underwhelming performances this summer at his natural position. On the other hand, that could also mean a trade or release is possible.

The injury suffered by starter Brandon Parker left the Raiders with a need at tackle. Leatherwood competed to win back the RT spot he was drafted to occupy, but didn’t fare as well as veteran Jermaine Eluemunor or seventh-round rookie rookie Thayer Munford in training camp. Vegas is not expected to tap the free agent market to add insurance in the wake of Parker’s absence.

That certainly suggests that Leatherwood could have at least an interior role, but as Bonsignore notes, the new Raiders regime has no ties to the Alabama alum. His struggles throughout camp and the preseason have left him with a “murky future,” something which is rather noteworthy for a second-year player attached to such a significant draft investment.

The RT position, along with both guard spots, are set to be finalized in the coming days. Where Leatherwood fits in (if at all) will be a key storyline to watch as the Raiders aim to better last year’s playoff appearance.

Raiders Not Eyeing Free Agent RT Addition

The Raiders did not field a particularly good offensive line in 2021. Despite the franchise hiring a new head coach-GM combination, the group remains relatively unchanged. And the team endured a recent setback; Brandon Parker is battling what is believed to be a significant injury, Tashan Reed of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Parker has not practiced since the Raiders’ preseason opener Aug. 4. The veteran blocker who spent much of last season as the Raiders’ starting right tackle re-signed with the team on a one-year, $3.5MM deal. He continued to work with the first-stringers during the team’s offseason program and into the start of training camp. The Raiders do not view Parker’s injury as season-ending at this point, per Reed, leading to no IR placement. Players can only return from IR if they are carried through to the 53-man roster after the Aug. 30 cutdown day.

The team does have other options here. Alex Leatherwood, who moved to guard early during his rookie season, is the most prominent of those choices. Though, the Alabama product widely viewed as a first-round reach last year was Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time O-lineman in 2021. Still, Josh McDaniels said earlier this summer Leatherwood would be given “every opportunity” to win the job. Veteran Jermaine Eluemunor and seventh-round rookie Thayer Munford, whom the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore notes has made “rapid” improvement, are also in the mix here. Munford, however, also suffered an injury this week.

Parker being sidelined for a chunk of the season opens the door to one of these options, with the others becoming depth pieces or swing options. The Raiders’ initial depth chart has Lester Cotton, a UDFA who has appeared in five career games, positioned as their right guard starter. Leatherwood having a road back to that gig, should he lose the right tackle competition, would make sense.

The team is not ruling out an outside addition, per Bonsignore, who adds a trade should not be discarded as an option. That may well depend on Parker’s timetable. If the team is to add a player in a non-trade capacity, Bonsignore notes a move should be expected on the waiver wire when rosters are slashed from 80 to 53 players in 10 days. But Las Vegas is not actively scouring the free agent market.

Daryl Williams resides as one of the top options available, but Reed adds the Raiders did not view him well as a Bills right tackle last season. The Bills moved Williams to guard during the 2021 slate. Bobby Massie, a longtime Bears starter who was the Broncos’ primary right-edge blocker in 2021, and Brandon Shell (a Jets and Seahawks full-timer during his career) are available as well.

Raiders Rumors: Offensive Line, WRs, Jacobs

We recently wrote about the unlikelihood that any rookies will be starting for the Raiders to start the 2022 NFL season. The player we gave the best odds of earning a starting role is maybe even better set up for taking the job than we thought, according to Vic Tafur and Tashan Reed at The Athletic. The two reported that, besides left tackle Kolton Miller and right guard Denzelle Good, the other three offensive line jobs are up for grabs.

We had given Andre James the assumption of starting at center after a successful season at the position last year. We also didn’t grant Good an automatic spot as he is recovering from a torn ACL that held him out for all but 18 snaps of last season. But Tafur and Reed assert that rookie third-round pick Dylan Parham “could push John Simpson at left guard and (James) at center.”

They also believe that Alex Leatherwood doesn’t quite have the right tackle job in the bag. He’s being pushed by Brandon Parker, who started 13 games at the position last year, while Leatherwood occupied a guard spot.

Here are a few more rumors from Sin City:

  • The addition of star wide receiver Davante Adams provides an obvious No. 1 weapon for quarterback Derek Carr. Carr will have Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller to target in the slot and at tight end, respectively, but who will be out wide opposite Adams? That role will be a battle between free agent additions Mack Hollins, Keelan Cole, and Demarcus Robinson. According to Tafur and Reed, the former Dolphins wide receiver, Hollins, should be considered the favorite. Though he hasn’t quite shown the necessary production (his best season came last year with 14 catches for 223 yards and 4 touchdowns), Hollins has a large, 6’4″ frame and speed that can make him an effective weapon while defenses focus on Adams, Waller, and Renfrow. Cole has shown more consistent production during tenures in Jacksonville and New York, as has Robinson in Kansas City, but neither quite has the physical tools that Hollins displays. If Hollins can take the next step and make the most of his abilities, Cole and Robinson can be strong assets off the bench behind a starting three of Adams, Renfrow, and Hollins.
  • Las Vegas didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on running back Josh Jacobs rookie contract this offseason as a result of some of the injury trouble he’s experienced in the NFL. In total, Jacobs has only missed six games throughout his three years of play, but his struggle to stay healthy has limited him in many other games. Due to health, Tafur and Reed see this as Jacobs’ last year on the team. Their opinion is also backed by the draft addition of Georgia running back Zamir White, once considered the top recruit at his position in high school. While the team won’t put too much on White as a rookie, The Athletic guesses that the Raiders will utilize a running back by committee approach. Vegas will lean on Jacobs to lead, as the most talented, while attempting to bring White along and up to NFL-speed. Career third-down back Brandon Bolden and backup Kenyan Drake will continue their usual roles as the Raiders allegedly groom White to start.