Chicago Bears claim NFL-high six players off waivers, including OL Alex Leatherwood

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears claimed offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood off waivers from the Las Vegas Raiders on Wednesday.

Leatherwood was one of an NFL-high six players claimed off waivers by the Bears. He was waived by Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Chicago coach Matt Eberflus said the Bears were "surprised" that Leatherwood, the Raiders' 2021 first-round pick, was available via waivers. The Bears were seventh in the claim order.

"We've got nothing but good reports and we're excited to have him and we'll see where he goes from here," Eberflus said. "It's a clean slate, it's a fresh start from him and we'll see where we start him at. We're not going to disclose that right now. Still working with the coaches on that. But it's a clean slate and a fresh start for him."

Leatherwood, who was taken with the No. 17 overall pick out of Alabama to be the Raiders' foundational right tackle, regressed in the preseason, and Las Vegas' new regime of coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler had seen enough.

"We've talked about competition since we came here in every position group and trying to give every player an opportunity to earn his job, and to earn his role -- whatever role that may be," McDaniels said. "Some are bigger than others, and we felt like we did that. We gave everybody an opportunity to go out there and play and really perform. So there's a lot of tough decisions that you make across the roster. You hope you get them all right. We're not perfect at that. So, hopefully, we did the best we could for our team and we tried to make the decisions we thought would help us going forward.

"Wish Alex nothing but the best. He did everything he could here to try to earn his role here."

Leatherwood is scheduled to make $14.39 million fully guaranteed this season as part of his rookie contract.

He was considered a draft reach last season by many observers and struggled enough early in the season that he was moved from right tackle to right guard in Week 5.

He was moved back to right tackle in training camp and was competing with Brandon Parker before Parker went down with an arm injury in the Hall of Fame Game. But Leatherwood was supplanted by rookie seventh-rounder Thayer Munford Jr. and Jermaine Eluemunor, making him expendable since Leatherwood could not fulfill the role of a swing tackle, either.

The Bears have already transitioned Teven Jenkins from left tackle to right guard, where he started the previous two preseason games. The second-year offensive lineman expressed uncertainty Tuesday that he will remain in Chicago even after making the initial 53-man roster as trade rumors have swirled.

"That's not for me to decide," Jenkins said when asked whether he's confident he'll be on the Bears roster Week 1. "That's up to them, however they want to put it or however they want to answer that."

Still, Jenkins' position switch gives Chicago coaches the belief that they can be successful doing the same for Leatherwood, whether he lines up at guard or at tackle.

"I think it just shows that we can, don't ever give up on a guy," Eberflus said. "Keep the door open for him and keep teaching him. Keep coaching him. Keep teaching him. Keep believing in him. And that's what we're here to do. We're here to encourage the guys along the way. There's a lot of adversity in football. We're here to challenge them."

Other players claimed off waivers by the Bears were DB Josh Blackwell (from Philadelphia Eagles), DE Kingsley Jonathan (from Buffalo Bills), DT Armon Watts (from Minnesota Vikings), LB Sterling Weatherford (from Indianapolis Colts) and TE Trevon Wesco (from New York Jets).

The Bears waived guard Zachary Thomas, defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga, linebacker Caleb Johnson and cornerback Duke Shelley, released linebacker Joe Thomas and placed receiver Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve in corresponding moves. Sharpe will miss the 2022 season with an injury to his ribs.

ESPN's Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.