The Chicago Bears have a need at right guard, which is why the decision to target and sign former Seahawks first-round pick, Germain Ifedi, was a curious one. Sure, Ifedi has experience at guard, but he primarily lined up at right tackle for Seattle in 2019 and has three times the amount of reps at tackle than he does at guard in his pro career.
The last time Ifedi played right guard was in 2018 when he logged 63 snaps at the position, but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel more comfortable as an interior player.
"I've always considered myself kind of an inside guy," Ifedi said last week during a call with reporters, "a road-grader type, but I've always accepted the challenge that came with playing tackle also, so it's just whichever one is a need, whichever one is needed at the time. It's no issue doing either one."
The Bears don't need Ifedi to play tackle in 2020, barring injury. The depth chart is set with Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie manning the left and right tackle spots respectively. But Kyle Long's "retirement" and Rashaad Coward's barely average play leaves Chicago with a big hole inside.
Ifedi's time in Seattle was marred by penalties, in part because he appeared out of position on the edge. He's big, strong, and more than capable of being a quality starting offensive lineman, but his foot speed left him vulnerable and the flags flew.
"I thought it was a good 4 years in Seattle," Ifedi said. "I started 65 games in 4 years. I think a lot of teams take that from a first-round pick, no matter how many damn penalties there were."
Starting is one thing. Hurting your team is another. Bears fans won't have much patience for another offensive lineman who costs the team yards. Ifedi's been flagged more than 50 times over the last four seasons, and when added to Leno, who has his own issue with penalties over the last four seasons, it could leave Chicago vulnerable to sloppy mistakes.
Still, Ifedi's upside is undeniable. He was a first-round pick, after all.
"Here’s a guy who's 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, that’s got some god-given ability, that’s got some big heart, that’s tough, that wants to be good," Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo said recently of Ifedi. "Am I excited? Oh, buddy, I'm, excited. Let me tell you, he’s been working his ass off. Working his ass off. So, I am excited about him."
Ryan Pace took a calculated risk on Ifedi. He dusted off his scouting report from 2016 and relied on it instead of Ifedi's on-field struggles in Seattle. Ifedi's 58.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2019 was the best of his career, which isn't saying much. He's been a fringe-starter (at best) who the Bears will rely on to fill a big void at an important position, especially with an emphasis on improving the running game in 2020.
But Pace has had success with players like this in the past. He's rolled the dice on veterans like Tracy Porter, Prince Amukamara, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (among others) who used a one-year prove-it deal to get the most out of their ability.
And remember: The starting job isn't a slam dunk for Ifedi. Coward won't go away easy, making right guard one of the more interesting storylines to follow this summer.