The Chicago Bears have made a couple of moves, cutting backup quarterback P.J. Walker and reserve offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood ahead of the deadline on August 29, per NFL insider Ian Rapoport and various reports.
They also placed backup lineman Gabriel Houy on injured reserve with the plan to waive him.
Bears Seemingly Settle Backup Quarterback Competition
What Cutting P.J. Walker Means for Tyson Bagent
The Bears have to cut 30-plus more players. But Walker and Leatherwood stand out among these moves, and for different reasons too. Walker, 28, signed in free agency from the Carolina Panthers to be Justin Fields’ backup. But veteran backup Nathan Peterman, and even more, undrafted rookie free agent Tyson Bagent have outplayed him.
Walker seemed to understand to severity of the situation after yesterday’s game.
I asked #Bears QB PJ Walker if the team has been upfront with him about competing for QB2:
“Yea, absolutely. I ain’t no fool. I can read the room. I know what it is. At the end of the day, it’s a business and if you ain’t performing, you ain’t gonna be able to play.”
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) August 26, 2023
He was able to orchestrate a touchdown drive in the Bears’ 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, though. Walker connected with fullback Robert Burns.
After spending the first three seasons of his career with the Panthers, Walkers left for the Bears, signing a two-year, $4 million contract. The Bears will still be on the hook for roughly $2 million after this move.
Walker finished the preseason completing 47.8% of his passes for 96 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Bagent did not throw a touchdown in the preseason.
But he led the team completing 69% of his passes for 156 yards with one interception. He also found the end zone twice with his legs, rushing three times for 25 yards, those two scores, and one fumble in the preseason.
Bagent has been an increasingly popular player this summer, which he addressed after Saturday’s contest.
“I feel like I noticed that people notice it more so than I notice it,” Bagent said. “Because for me, I think I’m just playing football. And I’ve just been playing football ever since I was a little kid. But I can sense that people are surprised that I’ve been able to have any success coming from where I came from.”
He came from Shepard University; a school in Shepardstown, West Virginia with a student body populace of less than 4,000. There Bagent set records, and now looks poised to be Fields’ backup.
Waiving Alex Leatherwood Could Signal Faith in OL
Leatherwood, 23, was a first-round pick of the Las Vegas Raiders who the Bears claimed off waivers last summer. He appeared in four games taking 32 total snaps last season. But he led the Bears this preseason with 131, per Pro Football Focus.
He finished the preseason with the lowest grade of any Bears lineman.
Leatherwood was going into the third year of his four-year, $14 million rookie contract, leaving Chicago on the hook for $4.6 million after waiving him.
The good news is this could mean the players ahead of Leatherwood – including fill-in starting left guard Cody Whitehair and backup utility interior lineman Lucas Patrick are good to go for Week 1 of the regular season.
Patrick will start at center while Teven Jenkins recovers from two strained calves and Whitehair fills in for him. Whitehair played in the Bears’ preseason finale against the Bills but Patrick did not.
If one or both cannot go, we could see Ja’Tyre Carter kick over from right guard to left, though that assumes Nate Davis is good to go after not playing in the preseason.
Center could be left to Doug Kramer or Dieter Eisland.
Bears Have Been Beat Up This Preseason
Neither has much experience and the former left Soldier Field with his hand bandaged. All of this doesn’t account for rookie right tackle Darnell Wright. He missed the finale with a sprained ankle, though with two weeks off until the opener against the Green Bay Packers, everyone should have the time to get healthy.
If nothing else, this could be a sign that the Bears are closer to full strength than they have been since camp opened. Head coach Matt Eberflus also expressed confidence that the bulk of the team’s injuries will be resolved by Week 1.