Bears make 6 waiver claims, including Raiders' Leatherwood

Many of us figured the rebuilding Bears might make a few tweaks to their roster Wednesday by digging into the NFL scrap heap, better known as the waiver wire.

But six claims? Not sure anyone saw that coming.

The two biggest additions are 6-foot-5, 312-pound offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, who started all 17 games for the Raiders in 2021; and 6-5, 307-pound defensive tackle Armon Watts, who had a career-best 46 tackles, 5 sacks and 10 QB hits with the Vikings last season.

The other additions are DB Josh Blackwell, DE Kingsley Jonathan, LB Sterling Weatherford and TE Trevon Wesco.

"We've had starters, Pro Bowl players come off claim(s) and we're excited about the guys we (got)," said head coach Matt Eberflus after practice. "They're our kind of guys."

To get back to 53 players, the Bears waived LB Caleb Johnson, DB Duke Shelley, offensive lineman Zachary Thomas and defensive lineman Khyris Tonga. They also released LB Joe Thomas and placed WR Tajae Sharpe on injured reserve.

It will be interesting to see if Leatherwood eventually unseats either Braxton Jones at left tackle or Larry Borom at right tackle. Or, perhaps, the Bears move him to guard.

One thing's for sure: Leatherwood needs to keep the penalties down. Granted, starting as a rookie is no easy task, but Leatherwood was whistled for 17 infractions last season, 9 of which were for holding (3 were declined). Eight of Leatherwood's penalties stalled drives, according to

Eberflus, not surprisingly, heaped plenty of praise upon the second-year player.

"We've got nothing but good reports and we're excited to have him and we'll see where he goes from here," Eberflus said. "It's a clean slate. It's a fresh start for him and we'll see where we start him at (position-wise). We're not going to disclose that right now."

Eberflus believes Leatherwood will be a big asset in the run game, which is extremely important for a team that can't rely on the pass.

"He stays on guys," Eberflus said. "That's what we like about him the most right now."

Said fellow O-lineman Riley Reiff: "Glad to have him. Anybody that helps us win games is a good thing. He's a young guy that's super talented."

Watts was cut by the Vikings on Tuesday after they acquired Ross Blacklock from the Texans. The former sixth-round pick out of St. Louis didn't play much as a rookie in 2019, but really stepped up his game last year. His 5 sacks last season came in an eight-game stretch where he also added 3 tackles for loss.

"Just an athlete," Eberflus said. "He's got really good rush ability, which is what we're looking for in there, but he's also got anchor to stay in there and anchor the point. ... We're excited to work with him and (improve) his pass rush ... and learn our style."

The Bears also signed 14 players to the practice squad, including 6-7, 301-pound offensive lineman Kellen Diesch, who was cut by the Dolphins. According to Pro Football Weekly, Diesch yielded just 3 sacks and 8 pressures in 568 pass rushing snaps while at Arizona State.

Here's a quick bio on the other waiver additions:

• Jonathan (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) is a Syracuse product who had 101 tackles (60 solo), 21.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in 56 games. He was in camp with the Bills.

• Weatherford is a converted safety who had 18 tackles in the preseason for the Colts. He was a third-team All-MAC selection last year with Miami (Ohio). "He's the kind of guy we're looking for," Eberflus said. "He's got speed, he's got size, he's got length. And he's gonna be competing in that linebacker room."

• Blackwell went to Duke and was in Eagles camp. He has a 40 speed of 4.33 seconds.

• Wesco was a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2019 and appeared in 40 games the last three seasons. The 6-3, 267-pounder could play a prominent role in the running game.

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