The drama is already high at Chicago Bears training camp. One player looks to be on his way out of town while another one who was thought to be out suddenly is back in.
The Chicago Bears are less than a week into training camp yet the drama is already high. Contract disputes dominated from the start, but at least they’re not ugly. There is just nothing going on yet.
What is causing the drama has to do with players wanting or not wanting to play in Chicago.
There are two players specifically who have been subjects of many rumors. The first one is offensive lineman Teven Jenkins.
Jenkins was a favorite of the previous regime led by general manager Ryan Pace. The Bears selected him in the second round of the 2021 draft. Pace and company loved him so much that they cut longtime left tackle starter Charles Leno Jr. There was no one else so the rookie was going to be the blindside blocker.
Then Jenkins dealt with a back injury that required surgery. He missed all of training camp and didn’t see the field until December.
The feeling was that the experience he gained in the last month of the season would be a foundation for him in 2022. Many people figured he would be the starting left tackle.
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Things didn’t work out as planned
With the new regime, things were not the same for Jenkins. Ryan Poles became the new general manager. Matt Eberflus became the new head coach and Chris Morgan the offensive line coach.
Jenkins, like every other player already on the team, had to prove himself. That became a difficult task when it became obvious that the new people in charge weren’t exactly enamored with his play. They have no connections with any of the players so they could cut anyone without much repercussion. That was evident when Poles hit the ground running and cut or traded several popular players.
Apparently, Jenkins felt he didn’t have to do much. He did get in better shape to help with the back issue. However, the people in charge still weren’t impressed.
At the start, Eberflus moved Jenkins from left tackle to right tackle. The head coach explained that he wanted to see how different combinations of players worked.
Then Eberflus moved Jenkins from the starting group to the second team. The thought was that it would be temporary but Jenkins spent the entire time during OTAs with the second group.
If Jenkins was to win a starting job, he had to battle rookie Braxton Jones. Jones impressed the staff during minicamps and OTAs. He was picked by Poles and company so he had an inside track.
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Poles made a couple of moves right before the start of training camp that changed everything, however. He signed two offensive linemen, tackle Riley Reiff and guard Michael Schofield.
Those signings changed the narrative on the offensive line. Reiff is a very good tackle and a huge upgrade. Additionally, he could make as much as $12.5 million so he’s the starter at left tackle.
Schofield, meanwhile, is a solid guard. He is the odds-on favorite to win the job at right guard.
That left Jenkins now battling Larry Borom for the right tackle job.
Apparently, that was not to his liking. Then, when training camp started, he wasn’t practicing. While Eberflus said that Jenkins was dealing with something with the trainers, he wouldn’t confirm if he was even injured.
According to ESPN Chicago’s David Kaplan, Jenkins had only a minor injury. The more pressing problem, though, was his immaturity. He then started having trouble with the coaches, specifically Morgan. Jenkins felt he should have one of the starting tackle jobs.
Later, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that now the Chicago Bears are fielding calls for trades for Jenkins. It looks like a once-promising career in Chicago finishes in failure.
A player once thought to be gone might stay
A second player is the opposite of Jenkins. Defensive end Robert Quinn had a historic season in 2021. He broke the franchise’s record for sacks in a season by recording 18.5 of them.
With the Bears at the beginning of another rebuild, many people figured that Quinn would be the next one to leave town. Poles traded or cut many high-priced and popular players to bring down the salary cap and give the team flexibility moving forward.
Quinn’s contract gave the Bears a $17.1 million cap hit. If they trade him, they save $12.9 million. In addition, they would pick up some critical draft picks. Having as many draft picks as possible helps speed up the rebuild.
It looked as if Quinn was on his way out when he skipped mandatory minicamp. In fact, he missed the entire offseason program. There was a question as to whether he’d show up for training camp.
However, he reported to camp ready to go. He addressed the rumors, saying he didn’t request a trade. He said he wanted to stay in Chicago.
I’ve been traded twice. You get tired of moving. I thought I did a good job last year, but I guess I’ll just continue to try to reprove myself. I expect to be here, but I guess if not, well, that’s out of my control. I’m just going to take it day by day and have fun here with the guys and just let life take its course.
Keeping Quinn has its advanages. There are a lot of new players on the team. Quinn is an unquestioned team leader. He could help the younger players, using his experience to help in their development. They could keep him and then see if they make a move next offseason. While he’ll be an $18.2 million cap hit, the team would save up to $14 million by trading him. Of course, the return depends on what he does in 2022.
With Jenkins and Quinn we see how quickly things can change in the NFL. Players once thought of to be a cornerstone of a team can become expendable while others who were on their way out could end up staying. Let’s see how these two cases progress.
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