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Bears buoy offensive line with two seasoned pros

New Bears offensive linemen Michael Schofield & Riley Reiff
New Bears offensive linemen Michael Schofield & Riley Reiff

The Bears added depth and experience to their offensive line early this week by signing veteran free agents Michael Schofield III and Riley Reiff.

Schofield has appeared in 102 NFL games with 81 starts in seven seasons with the Broncos (2014-16), Chargers (2017-19 and 2021) and Panthers (2020). He has opened games at every position on the line except center. Last season in his second stint with the Chargers, the 6-6, 301-pounder played in 15 contests with 12 starts at right tackle.

Reiff has appeared in 147 games with 139 starts in 10 seasons with the Lions, Vikings and Bengals. The 6-6, 305-pounder lined up at left tackle with Detroit (2012-16) and Minnesota (2017-20) before starting all 12 contests he played at right tackle with Cincinnati last year. 

"The experience and the flexibility those guys have, it's just outstanding," coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday at Halas Hall. "That enables us to do a lot of different things. We're in a much better spot with those two guys on our roster than we were 24 hours ago."

The position flexibility that Schofield and Reiff provide will enable the Bears not only to start their five best offensive linemen, but to experiment with some of their young players—such as 2021 draft picks Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins—at different spots in training camp.

"I think it's definitely going to help our team," said quarterback Justin Fields, "especially the younger guys … just teach them the ropes on how to be an NFL lineman and how to stay in the league for a long time. It's going to teach them a lot, so I'm definitely excited for them."

Get an exclusive look at Bears players arriving for the start of Enjoy Illinois Training Camp at Halas Hall.

Neither Schofield nor Reiff was with a team this offseason, so the two seasoned pros may need to be eased into action during training camp.

"We'll see what shape they're in and adjust accordingly," said general manager Ryan Poles. "But the purpose of [signing them] is for them to come in and compete and make that unit better."

Center Lucas Patrick is thrilled that two fellow veterans are joining the line and hopes his young teammates aren't discouraged that their chances of winning a starting job may have diminished.

"It's a great message that in the NFL, nothing is guaranteed," said Patrick, who signed with the Bears in March after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Packers. "Competition is the greatest barometer for a team. If we could have 100 guys in here who are all NFL veterans and make everyone better, it makes the team better, which then helps us win games.

"That's how I see it. I've been on both sides of the coin and it's definitely a benefit. You just have to approach it with the right mentality that you have to bring your best every day. That's why it's the National Football League and why we are professionals."