Right side of Chicago Bears’ O-line up for grabs

The Chicago Bears hit the practice field for the first time Wednesday morning at Halas Hall, but the real work for offensive linemen begins Monday when rules allow the team to put on full pads.

So when the first unit the team ended June minicamp with was first up in team drills, that said something. But much more telling will be how the group is deployed in another five days.

Rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones was at left tackle. Logic dictates that newly signed Riley Reiff will assume that position soon. The Bears are seeking the best five players on the line, and Reiff’s experience — with 124 career starts — makes him a clear candidate for the starting lineup.

Reiff’s one-year contract calls for a base salary of $3 million, and he will earn an additional $4.5 million if he plays only 10% of snaps and the offense improves in any one of six key offensive categories. Details of the categories are unknown, but the offense was so bad last season, the Bears obviously are planning to pay the additional money and aren’t going to make $7.5 million a layup for a player they expect to be a backup. Reiff can earn another $2.5 million tied to playing time and has a $2 million playoff bonus as well, so it’s easy to envision him as the starting left tackle.

Reiff said the Bears were in contact with his agent, and things moved quickly over the weekend to sign him. He underwent left ankle surgery near the end of last season with the Cincinnati Bengals and has been fully cleared. With three years of experience in Minnesota, he has played in a similar blocking scheme. He seems fresh and ready to roll after being at home all offseason.

“(When) you’re in Year 7 to 8, you’re like, ‘Damn, OTAs suck,’ ” Reiff, 33, said. “But then when you don’t have them, you actually miss them, right? I’ve got a 1 ½-year-old boy running around, so there’s a few times there in the offseason where I was like, ‘Dang, I’d rather be at OTAs than chasing him around.’ ”

With Cody Whitehair established at left guard and Lucas Patrick the coaches’ clear choiceat center, that leaves the right side of the line open for competition. Sam Mustipher was at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle for most of practice Wednesday.

Michael Schofield, the other veteran signed just before camp, could be in the mix at either position on the right side but has more experience playing on the inside. He will earn $1.12 million with a veteran salary benefit, meaning he will count only $895,000 against the cap.

The Sandburg High School graduate said signing with the Bears was like being drafted all over again because he grew up as a fan of the team, saying his first jersey was a Marty Booker model. He entered the league in 2014 as a third-round pick of the Denver Broncos. He also has experience in the scheme, having played for Gary Kubiak.

Borom, a 2021 fifth-round pick, would appear to have a leg up at right tackle on Teven Jenkins, a second-round pick last year, but things can change quickly once pads go on and the coaches begin mixing and matching.

“We have to keep an open mind into the best combination, the best five, and the best three guys after that,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “So it’s important that we keep an open mind.”

Practices in full pads and preseason action will tell us much more, but the Bears have a new veteran to anchor the left side of the line and another experienced candidate who will be in competition for a job.

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