The Chicago Bears are bracing to be without projected starting left guard Teven Jenkins for several weeks as he deals with a leg injury. It could linger into the regular season, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Bears Have Options Amid Teven Jenkins Injury
Bears Free Agent Options to Replace Teven Jenkins
Jenkins, 25, is a former second-round pick who has dealt with injuries since college. He missed four games last season due to injuries after they also hindered him during training camp. His absence looms large for a revamped offensive line breaking in a rookie right tackle, a new starting right guard, and a center who hasn’t played the position in two years.
If Jenkins is truly going to be out for several weeks – Biggs notes that injured reserve remains a possibility – they may want to explore external options. They spent a lot of money this offseason to let it be undone by this.
Fortunately for them, there are still some capable players available on the free-agent market.
Former Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell was a salary cap-casualty of the Washington Commanders earlier this offseason. He started 16 games for Washington in 2022, grading out as their third-best offensive lineman behind tackles Samuel Cosmi, Charles Leno, and Cornelius Lucas, per Pro Football Focus.
He helped block for the 12-leading rushing attack last season. And, while the Commanders’ passing attack ranked just 21st, his four sacks allowed were half of what Cosmi and Leno each allowed.
Norwell, 33, is coming off his lowest-graded season, and Father Time remains undefeated no matter the player.
He was cut in part to shave $4.3 million off the bottom line. Norwell was also placed on the PUP list this summer, though his release came only after he could pass a physical. He could add a starting presence now and quality depth later on, much like Michael Schofield did last season, that is if he is healthy.
He could also come cheaper than our next potential option.
Former Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner is several years younger than Norwell at just 28 years old. But he too finds still himself a part of the free agent market in mid-to-late August just four years after being selected No. 41 overall in 2019.
Risner started 15 games for the Broncos last season, finishing the year as their fourth-best normal starting lineman. But Denver decided to sign former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers in free agency amid a change at head coach and following Risner’s season-ending elbow injury last season.
And he is looking healthy this offseason.
Go to work. Keep working. Stay Humble. Stay Ready. Let God unfold it ALL. pic.twitter.com/RKpjW0Y1sI
— Dalton Risner (@Dalton_Risner66) August 15, 2023
There are some concerns that he could command top dollar, perhaps keeping some teams at bay. But the Bears don’t have that problem. They are still seventh in cap space even after this offseason’s spending spree, per Spotrac.
However, Mike Klis of 9News reported that Risner has drawn interest from at least seven teams and has met with the Minnesota Vikings. And several of the teams with even more cap room at their disposal need a guard including Norwell’s former team, the Panthers, who could look to beef up the protection in front of rookie No. 1 overall pick, Bryce Young.
In that sense, adding Norwell could be a double-win for the Bears: helping themselves and protecting their draft interest Panthers’ season.
Bears’ Internal Options to Replace Teven Jenkins
The Bears don’t have to venture outside the organization to try and fill the potential void left by Jenkins. They could turn to one of several players of varying experience levels if they truly believe Jenkins will be back sooner rather than later. That is if he misses time at all as rumored.
Carter has gotten plenty of work this offseason with starting right guard Nate Davis dealing with an undisclosed ailment during training camp. Davis suggested he was “back” during his media availability last week, though. That would free Carter up to swing over to Jenkins’ spot if need be.
A seventh-round pick by the Bears in 2022, Carter is the second-highest-graded lineman through two preseason games. He ranks behind third-year tackle, Larry Borom.
He certainly had the confidence of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in Week 1.
“That’s an awesome dude, man,” Davis said on August 14. “He has a lot of potential. He’s only going to get better and better. … I’m happy for him. He’s doing well.”
The Bears brought in former Las Vegas Raider Alex Leatherwood last offseason. But he finished the year with just 32 snaps – one more than Carter got. He also graded out worse than all but one other lineman who started at least one game for the Bears in 2022.
This preseason has been a different story entirely, though, with Leatherwood receiving the highest pass-blocking grade of any Bears guard.
He’s also the player listed behind Jenkins on the Bears’ official depth chart.
Leatherwood may get the first crack at holding down the fort in Jenkins’ absence. But they still have a couple of other options they can turn to if that doesn’t work.
Chicago added Lucas Patrick as one of several pieces brought over to help improve the roster as the starting center and help install Getsy’s offense. Injuries prevented him from locking down the center’s role and he began the season rotating with Jenkins at right guard.
He also played on the left side and could be a more proven option than Carter or Leatherwood.
His versatility could also work against him, though, with the team running low on backups at guard as it is.
This would be the most extreme option given Cody Whitehair has worked at center all summer. But the second longest-tenure Bear has played guard for the last two seasons, specifically left guard. It would be less of a transition for him than most players, including Carter.
If Getsy shot down such a shift for Davis’ absence, however, it’s possible to probable that they take a similar approach with Jenkins, at least to start.
Anything could happen if this situation lingers but Whitehair seems like an emergency option.