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Chicago Bears claim Raiders 2021 first-round draft bust Alex Leatherwood off waivers

Chicago Bears
Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears, a team in desperate need of improving their offensive line, have taken a flier on former first-round pick Alex Leatherwood and claimed him off waivers on Wednesday.

It is not every day that a first-round pick gets cut by a team only one year after being drafted, but that was the situation on Tuesday when the Las Vegas Raiders ended their relationship with the player taken 17th overall in the 2021 NFL draft, Alex Leatherwood. Over the last week, as NFL teams looked to shrink down their rosters to 53 men, there were rumblings out of Las Vegas that the Alabama Crimson Tide standout could be on the chopping block if the organization could not find a trade partner for him.

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In the end, the Raiders cut the offensive lineman yesterday ahead of the roster deadline and left him up for grabs to any NFL team looking to fix the holes in their O-line. On Wednesday, it was reported that Leatherwood was one of six players the Bears claimed off waivers. The other five were defensive tackle Armani Watts, defensive back Josh Blackwell, defensive end Kingsley Johnathan, linebacker Sterling Weatherford and tight end Trevin Wesco.

Alex Leatherwood brings much-needed depth to Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears
Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The acquisition is actually pretty good news for the Raiders since they would have been on the hook for the $5.9 million owed to Leatherwood in 2022. However, in being desperate for offensive line help, the Bears will now pay the remainder of the 23-year-old’s contract. After playing tackle in college, he was expected to be an anchor at the end of the Las Vegas line for years to come. Unfortunately, he underperformed to such a level to where he was moved from right tackle to right guard during the season.

Even with an offseason to try and improve on his weaknesses, Leatherwood quickly fell out of favor this summer and with a new coaching staff in Las Vegas and no investment in him, Leatherwood was deemed expendable.

While he has quickly turned himself into a bonafide bust from the 2021 NFL draft class, there is still a great deal of potential in the 6-foot-5, 312-pound talent. The Bears line didn’t give sack-prone quarterback Justin Fields much help in his rookie season and things did not improve substantially during the offseason. Taking Leatherwood outright off waivers is proof of that, but still a worthwhile risk for a team that can use all the help they can get on the line.