The Chicago Bears offensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team in 2019. For some reason that hasn’t been the case through the first five games. Penalties are a major issue with 16 total so far and now right guard Kyle Long is once again on injured reserve due to a myriad of injuries. It’s clear the group needs help. They’re not quite ready to go scrambling for it from the outside just yet. They remain optimistic that one of Ted Larsen, Rashaad Coward, or rookie Alex Bars could replace Long.
That’s all fine and good, but what about tackle? Right now the Bears are hoping Charles Leno Jr. can get over the clear funk he’s been in since the season started. He is responsible for eight of the 16 penalties the offense has drawn thus far and his blocking took a notable step back from last season when he made the Pro Bowl. This might encourage the Bears to seek out a potential backup option that may turn into a long-term one with a little luck.
According to Mike Clay of ESPN, one name they should be sniffing around is Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
The Philadelphia Eagles are loaded at tackle with veteran Jason Peters and now 1st round pick Andre Dillard backing him up. This puts Vaitai on course to leave in 2020 free agency, so it would make sense for the Eagles to deal him if possible.
“A 2016 fifth-round pick, Vaitai has made 17 starts and is headed to unrestricted free agency after this season. Eagles GM Howie Roseman is always invested in the trade market, and a team in need of tackle help very well could covet Vaitai in a deadline deal.
Odd man out: Vaitai
What he could bring in trade: Help at wide receiver, defensive tackle or cornerback”
Chicago Bears could get quality line depth on the cheap
Vaitai is an interesting case. A 5th round pick out of TCU in 2016, he became an Eagles folk hero when he stepped into the starting left tackle spot after Peters went down for the season. Philadelphia ended up winning the Super Bowl thanks to his efforts. Since then he’s added to his value as a primary reserve by logging time at right tackle and most recently right guard for the Eagles. While he does suffer from occasional setbacks, his size and power have been major assets, particularly in the running game.
Given how much the Bears want to improve their ground attack, this makes all the more sense. The best part is he’ll likely come cheap, costing no more than a late-round pick to secure. He’s 26-years old and wouldn’t cost much in terms of money to keep around beyond this year. He could then compete for a number of spots along the line from Leno’s at left tackle to Long’s at right guard. It isn’t what one would call an ideal solution, but it would provide much-needed flexibility.