The Chicago Bears have not made any additions at offensive tackle in the opening days of the new 2023 league year, but they are beginning to scope out some of the solutions that could be available to them in this year’s NFL draft.
According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, former Maryland standout offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan is scheduled to have a top 30 visit with the Bears in preparation for the 2023 NFL draft that begins next month on April 27. He was a four-year starter as the Terrapins’ primary blindside blocker and could be an NFL-ready option for the Bears to target with their first pick in the second round (No. 53 overall).
The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Duncan gets plenty of credit for his high athleticism and quickness as both a pass protector and run blocker, but he did regress a bit in 2022 and ended up giving up career-highs in sacks (seven) and quarterback hurries (17). He has also drawn some criticism from draft analysts for his hands and his struggles in setting an outside anchor. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com also wrote that he “rarely plays with enough finish and his man is frequently near the final action because of it.”
Still, Duncan looked as though he had improved some of the flawed areas of his game during his impressive week at the Senior Bowl earlier this year. If he can show more progress at Maryland’s pro day on March 29 and pack a few more pounds into his frame, he could push his way into the late parts of the first round of April’s draft.
Every NFL team is allowed up to 30 in-house visits with prospects in the months leading up to the draft itself. That Duncan is one of them helps confirm the Bears are exploring options beyond the first round that could appeal to them at offensive tackle, and rightly so given the personnel currently dotting their roster. Aside from 2022 PFWA All-Rookie Braxton Jones, the Bears only have Alex Leatherwood and Larry Borom in place to round out the position after Riley Reiff signed with New England.
Which Free Agent OTs Remain Options for Bears?
The Bears have either passed up or missed out on several of the top offensive tackles on the market in 2023 free agency. In fact, most of the top talent is gone with Orlando Brown Jr., Jawaan Taylor, Mike McGlinchey, Kaleb McGary, Andre Dillard and Andrew Wylie all having signed multi-year contracts in the past few days. If the Bears want to add at least one capable veteran to the room, though, the window isn’t completely shut.
George Fant is coming off a rough season both in terms of his play (five sacks and 27 pressures allowed in eight games) and his health (two months-plus on injured reserve), but the 30-year-old former New York Jets veteran has played 2,113 career snaps at left tackle and another 1,188 snaps on the right side and would be valuable depth for the Bears’ young and inexperienced tackle room.
Former New England Patriots starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn is also still available. He played a career-low 423 offensive snaps in 2022 and wasn’t particularly efficient in his switch to right tackle. He has also battled with injuries throughout his first four seasons in the league, but the former first-round pick is only 26 and would have a much higher developmental ceiling than someone like Fant.
Other possible options include: Donovan Smith, Billy Turner, Eric Fisher, Taylor Lewan and Cameron Fleming.
Bears Also Holding Top 30 Visit With Jalen Carter
The Bears are also scheduled to hold a top 30 visit with “blue-chip” Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, as general manager Ryan Poles confirmed to reporters on March 16. A month ago, Carter was widely considered one of the top two defensive prospects in the class right alongside Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., but his arrest and subsequent pleas of no contest to charges of reckless driving and racing earlier in March, per ESPN, have caused his draft stock to fall along with his below-average pro day.
Now, the Bears are wisely doing their due diligence on Carter and trying to determine the risks that could come with drafting him. Should they walk away from the visit feeling comfortable, he could be the primary target for them at No. 9 overall.
Here’s the full list of prospects reported to have Top 30 visits scheduled with the Bears:
Ricky Stromberg, OC, Arkansas: (Per Bleav Network)
Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland: (Per Justin Melo of The Draft Network)
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia: (Per Ryan Poles in his March 16 press conference)
Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green: (Per Justin Melo of The Draft Network)
Deslin Alexandre, DL, Pittsburgh: (Per Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network)