Winning has driven Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to do something selfless.
Chris Emma of 670 The Score reports details of Leno’s restructured contract, which was done with the idea of helping his teammates get paid with the cap space that was created. Leno’s acceptance of a restructured deal reduced his base salary to $930,000 in 2019, which created $5.6 million in additional salary cap space. It’s a move that Leno made with the hope that the 12-win NFC North champion Bears stick around for a bit. Leno’s willingness to make things work was done with his teammates in mind.
“It’s hard to come around teams like this. It really is,” Leno said. “The guys we have in this locker room, the talent we have, it’s hard to come around teams like this. We want to keep these guys together so we can keep playing for a long time.”
I doubt Leno’s kind words are just lip service. Because if anyone should have an extra appreciation of what the 2018 team did, and what this core can do in 2019 and beyond, it’s Leno. Just take a moment to think about what he has played through since arriving in Chicago in 2014.
Leno was around for the teardown of Phil Emery’s team and subsequent rebuild under Ryan Pace. Sticking it out through the teardown and rebuild takes the right mix of talent, work ethic, patience, and a little bit of luck. Leno has blocked for Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, Chase Daniel, and Mitch Trubisky. He was around to see Marc Trestman’s demise, witnessed the rise (and ultimate fall) of the John Fox era, and finally got a taste of winning in Matt Nagy’s first year running the show. All things considered, being part of a 12-game division winner after knowing what it was like when your team was winning 19 games over a four-year span would likely drive many to make a small sacrifice to help maintain some sort of sustained success.
To say Leno Jr. has seen some stuff in his five years might be an understatement. So when the Bears approached him with a request to restructure the big-money contract extension he earned in 2017, it probably should not have been a surprise that he was willing to make some sacrifices for the long-term greater good of the ball club. Now comes the hard part, which is making sure the cap space is put to good use and retaining the essential core pieces that will ultimately bring a Super Bowl winner home to Chicago.