Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears started their offseason training program on Monday, and will soon add a new offensive lineman to their mix.
Earlier today, the team announced the signing of free agent offensive lineman Earl Watford in a move that was originally reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network chimes in with financial details of the deal, which includes $550,000 guaranteed and can be worth up to $2 million. The signing reunites Watford with former Arizona Cardinals teammates Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie.
Watford was a fourth-round pick (116th overall) by the Cardinals in 2013 and earned some starting experience during his four-year stint with the team. He appeared in 10 games (9 starts) for the Cardinals in 2017 and started 11 of the 15 games he appeared in during the 2016 season.
Unfortunately, Watford’s grades from Pro Football Focus don’t reflect all that well when he started. In 2017, Watford earned a 36.7 grade, which ranked 74th among the 77 guards who played enough snaps to qualify for the site’s leaderboard. PFF also handed him a 33.6 grade for his efforts in 2016.
Watford was the lowest-graded right guard in Week 1 of the 2016 season, as PFF’s Bryson Vesnaver notes Watford struggled in the pass and run game, allowed a quarterback hit, and was beaten twice for tackles while run blocking. And in Week 17 of the 2017 season, Watford moved out to tackle and was the lowest-graded player of the week as he gave up two quarterback hits, nine hurries, and was flagged twice. PFF’s Sam Monson described Watford’s protection as “a nightmare” while adding Watford “was also beaten up on in the run game.” Yikes.
So Watford has playing experience at guard and tackle, but doesn’t have too many positive experiences to draw from in his past. Versatility along the offensive line is key, especially since most teams carry just seven linemen on the active gameday roster. Watford will probably need to show major improvements if he is going to lock down a spot on the Week 1 roster.