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Another Big Lineman Beefs Up Running Game

Elijah Wilkinson had earned a starting spot at right tackle but a shin injury last year derailed him, although he managed to deliver later after coming off IR

If the Bears intend to strengthen themselves at tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, it must be a left tackle specifically.

The signing they made on Tuesday all but ensures they don't need another right tackle type on the roster.

They agreed to terms with Denver Broncos tackle Elijah Wilkinson, according to his Instagram account. The Bears later confirmed the signing on a one-year deal.

Wilkinson is a bit like Germain Ifedi is. He can play right guard or right tackle. A broken shin took Wilkinson out of the starting lineup last year and he made just seven starts but played effectively, especially in the running game.

At 6-foot-6 329-pounder, Wilkinson could be regarded as swing tackle insurance or the Bears could intend to start him and put Ifedi back to right guard where he played last year.

Ifedi signed a $5 million deal for one year in this free agency period.

This greatly adds depth and could even foreshadow a possible trade of an offensive lineman.

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James Daniels missed most of last season with a pectoral muscle injury and is expected to return. It's possible the Bears could put him into a trade package since he's still on a rookie contract.

Daniels has versatility as a center.

It all could be simply an attempt to further bolster an offensive line that struggled until switching away from as much spread offense out of the shotgun to a quarterback under center with plenty of bootleg style passes or outside zone runs.

Without Mitchell Trubisky, it's likely they'll be using less quarterback movement and more spread offense again. They would need to power up the offensive line then, because it struggled to open the run using RPO and inside zone blocking early last season.

Either way, they would appear to at least have a more dependable swing tackle option than last year when they signed often-injured Jason Spriggs as a free agent, and he was injured and on the COVID reserve list at times. They needed a swing tackle when Bobby Massie was injured, and were forced to move Ifedi from guard to right tackle.

Wilkinson has had 26 starts and 45 total games in four years after signing as an undrafted free agent from UMass.

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