The Bears Went all the Way to Nigeria to Add Another Offensive Lineman
Bears fans hold out hope that their favorite team is willing to search far and wide in an attempt to put out the best 53-player roster possible.
But even I, using the wildest parts of my imagination, could not predict the team would go all the way to Nigeria to pluck a developmental offensive line prospect.
Then again, that’s the nature of the NFL. You never know where you’ll find the next big thing. And while Roy Mbaeteka has a long way to go on his NFL journey, there is a level of intrigue in that he is getting it started in Chicago:
Mbaeteka checks in at 6-foot-8 and 331 pounds, giving him ideal measurements for an offensive line prospect. But he has no high school or college football playing experience. Mbaeteka does have some basketball in his background, which could speak to the type of athlete he is. But his football career arc didn’t begin until getting into the NFL International Pathway program. The league describes the IPP as aiming to “provide elite athletes from around the world with the opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster and increase the number of international players in the league.”
In other words, the NFL has come through with a new way to expand its international reach. And, in doing so, are creating a new pipeline of talent. Part of me wants to joke about Commissioner Roger Goodell going full Sheev Palpatine in having no limits to where he’ll expand his empire. But part of me wants to tip my cap to Goodell. There is value in taking the game overseas. And not just in terms of marketing the game or making money. Building an audience is cool. But doing so and creating new player pipelines takes it to another level.
As for Mbaeteka, he’ll ride with the Bears through the end of training camp. From there, he is eligible for an exemption to be carried on the practice squad. So, at a minimum, the Bears appear to have found a loophole to have an extra player. Points for creativity. And if things progress, the Bears can eventually elevate Mbaeteka onto the active roster. We’re probably a ways away from that possibility playing out. But I like that the possibility exists. I’m looking forward to seeing yet another fresh face when camp opens this summer.