The Bears have found a left tackle to lean on for years to come.
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Chicago announced Wednesday that it gave Charles Leno Jr. a four-year extension. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported the extension is worth $38 million with $21.5 million in guarantees, per a source informed of negotiations.
Slated to become a free agent after this season, Leno would enter September as the league’s 14th-highest paid left tackle based on annual average, per the Chicago Tribune.
“We were so fortunate to [have him],” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said early in the offseason, per the Tribune. “He’s got great athleticism. He’s long. I like Leno a lot. I like his makeup. I like his intelligence.”
A 2014 seventh-round draft pick, Leno has started 29 straight games at left tackle. That consistency obviously matters for a Bears team hoping to ultimately give quarterback-in-waiting Mitchell Trubisky a sturdy front five to play behind deep into the future.
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Aguayo, a second-round pick in 2016, was released Saturday after missing two of three kicks in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener against Cincinnati.
This isn’t just any waiver claim, though. If you thought kickers were mild-mannered, olive branch-wielding men of peace and extra points, get ready for some potential bad blood. Chicago’s current kicker, Connor Barth, has spent time with four teams in his career, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barth was on his second voyage with the Bucs when Tampa Bay traded up to select Aguayo in the 2016 draft.
Three days later, Tampa Bay cut Barth.
Could Aguayo be coming for Barth’s job again? Is Aguayo the kicking equivalent of Barth’s Turk?
Aguayo won’t win the job unless he fixes his accuracy issues. The former Florida State Seminole has made just 71 percent of his field goal attempts (22 of 31), while Barth brings a career 84 percent success rate (157 of 187) to the table. In extra points, Barth is even better, nailing 99 percent of his attempts (205 of 207), as opposed to Aguayo’s 94.1 percent (32 of 34).
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni told Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune the Bears have resorted to reminding Kevin White how great he can be on a football field to help coax the wideout out of a two-year injury funk.
“We’ve got to block out the noise with him,” Azzanni said. “I can’t let him read papers and [listen] to the media. I just can’t. Because there is going to be some negative in there that gets in his head. And he can’t let that happen. He has to be positive. And we’ve got to go in our bunker all the time and tell him how great he is. Because he is.”
After the Bears made White the No. 7 overall pick in 2015, the receiver missed all but four games in his first two seasons due to injury. To buoy his spirits, Azzanni recently showed White his explosive college film from West Virginia to help convince the first-round pick he has the talent to excel in the NFL.
“He forgets about that sometimes,” Azzanni said. “Because of the embattled two years that he has had. … I wanted him to see how he owned the ball in the air, how he used to go up and just grab that ball in the air. He’s starting to do that again.”
It’s not often a top-10 pick needs reminding that he’s good enough to beat NFL defenders. But with White’s injury struggles, it’s fair for the Bears to mentally rebuild their most talented pass catcher from the ground up.
Per Wiederer, White’s training camp has been “ordinary” thus far. Perhaps a reminder of his explosive college days will turn the light on for the 25-year-old wideout.