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Alex Leatherwood Claimed on Waivers by Bears After Raiders Release

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 31, 2022

Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have claimed former Las Vegas Raiders offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood off waivers.

Ahead of Tuesday's final cut deadline, the Raiders waived Leatherwood just one year after selecting him in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted the salary implications of Wednesday's move:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bears?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bears</a> inherit Alex Leatherwood's contract, which has 3 years left and $5.9M left that is fully guaranteed, plus they have the right to the fifth-year option. Las Vegas already paid 58.9% of it. <a href="https://t.co/CmVMciZwU2">https://t.co/CmVMciZwU2</a>

The selection of Leatherwood with the No. 17 overall pick met immediate skepticism. Although he was the reigning Outland Trophy winner, it was unclear whether he was suited to be a tackle or guard at the next level. Because of that, many believed Las Vegas reached with its pick.

Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave the Raiders an "F" grade and said Leatherwood "would have been a better pick at least a half or even full round later."

The 23-year-old did little to silence his doubters as a rookie. Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson ranked the Raiders offensive line at No. 28 following the season and noted Leatherwood "posted a meager 29.0 pass-blocking grade, allowing a league-leading 65 pressures at right tackle and then right guard."

The Raiders' decision to cut him showed that the performance of the 6'5", 312-pound lineman didn't improve in the preseason.

Las Vegas' loss could be Chicago's gain.

Leatherwood's flaws are glaring, but he has plenty of time to get his development back on course. A change of scenery also means he won't be burdened with the expectations that followed him with the Raiders.

Tashan Reed @tashanreed

Alex Leatherwood is a talented player. He has the size, strength &amp; athleticism you want in an OL. But he lost his confidence in the preseason, was probably playing the wrong position and ultimately fell out of favor with the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Raiders?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Raiders</a>. He'll get another chance elsewhere for sure.

Bryan Perez @BryanPerezNFL

I was high on Leatherwood as a draft prospect in 2021. I really, really like this move by the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bears?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bears</a>. Sure, he didn't have a great rookie season, but offensive linemen often need some time to develop. His upside remains high.

The Bears were 23rd in adjusted line rating and 32nd in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders. Despite the unit's poor performance, the team didn't make a headline-grabbing move in free agency and waited until the fifth round of the draft to take a lineman (Braxton Jones).

Maybe Leatherwood isn't the answer in a starting role—be it at guard or tackle—but there's little downside for Chicago to take a flier on him.

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