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Cut Tracker: Bears begin finalizing 53-man roster

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USA TODAY

Cut Tracker: Bears begin finalizing 53-man roster

The Bears have until 3 p.m. on Saturday to trim their roster down to 53. Players who are waived can be claimed/signed on Sunday, which is when all 32 NFL teams will finalize their practice squad.

As cuts trickle in, CSNChicago.com is tracking each move.

Saturday's IR/PUP moves:

Jordan Morgan (OL)

The Bears' 2017 fifth-round draft pick will be palced on IR, according to the Sun-Times.

Lamarr Houston (OLB)

The veteran outside linebacker will be placed on IR and the team will try to work out an injury settlement, reports NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Pernell McPhee (OLB)

The Bears are taking McPhee off the PUP list and he will begin the season on the 53-man roster, per the Chicago Tribune.

Saturday's cuts:

Isaiah Irving (OLB)

The undrafted rookie free agent will likely be placed on waivers, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Dan Skuta (OLB)

The Bears will release the veteran linebacker, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Jonathan Anderson  (ILB)

Anderson will be waived and the Bears will attempt to sign him to the practice squad, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Jaye Howard (DL)

The veteran lineman who has been dealing with a hip injury had his contract terminated, per the Chicago Tribune.

Brandon Greene (OL)

Greene, who played both tight end and offensive line at Alabama, has been placed on waivers, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Josh Rounds (RB)

According to the Sun-Times, the Bears will send Rounds through waivers. The rookie running back had 36 carries for 84 yards and two receptions for 18 yards in the preseason.

Dieugot Joseph (OL)

The Bears will place the rookie offensive lineman on waivers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

DeAndre Houston-Carson (S)

A sixth-round pick by the Bears in 2016, Houston-Carson only had two tackles in his two seasons in Chicago. The Houston Chronicle reports the Bears will cut Houston-Carson.

Rashaad Coward (DL)

The undrafted free agent will be a candidate for the Bears' practice squad, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Tanner Gentry (WR)

A fan favorite throughout training camp, Gentry will be placed on waivers, according to the Sun-Times. Gentry had four receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown during the preseason.

Harold Jones-Quartey (S)

The Bears have waived the former undrafted free agent, according to the Chicago Tribune. Jones-Quartey had 87 tackles and two interceptions in 29 games with the Bears.

Roberto Aguayo (K)

The former second-round pick who the Bears claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in August has been released, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Aguayo missed his only field goal attempt with the Bears during the preseason.

Friday's cuts:

Cyril Richardson (OL)

Richardson will be placed on waivers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Victor Cruz (WR)

The Bears won't be serving salsa at Soldier Field this season. According to multiple reports, the Bears will release the veteran wide receiver. Cruz had six passes for 37 yards with a touchdown in four preseason games.

Connor Shaw (QB)

After getting injured in Thursday's preseason finale against the Browns, the Bears are expected to waive Shaw, per the Chicago Tribune.

Rashaad Reynolds (CB)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears have waived Reynolds.

Will Poehls (OL)

Poehls, who spent time on the Bears practice squad in 2016, was placed on waiverd Friday afternoon, according to Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times.

Taylor Boggs (OL)

Back for a second stint with the Bears, Boggs wasn't able to crack the final 53-man roster, per the Chicago Tribune.

Freddie Stevenson (FB)

The former Florida State standout, who was one of two fullbacks in camp with the Bears, has been placed on waivers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Mitchell Kirsch (G)

The rookie guard has been placed on waivers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Kelvin Sheppard (LB)

The veteran linebacker had his contract terminated by the Bears, per the Chicago Tribune.

MyCole Pruitt (TE)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears informed Pruitt that he will be placed on waivers. Pruitt, a former fifth round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, had five receptions for 85 yards in four preseason games.

BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

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USA TODAY

BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

On Ep. 56 of our BearsTalk Podcast, Chris and JJ discuss Mitch Trubisky’s contract, question marks about the final 53, go over the Vikings off-season with Dawn Mitchell from Fox-9 Minneapolis, and go “Off the Grid” on  JJ’s recent engagement.

Is Charles Leno Jr. right long-term fit at left tackle for Bears?

Is Charles Leno Jr. right long-term fit at left tackle for Bears?

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself," Bears offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. told CSNChicago.com when asked about the personal significant of the 2017 season.

Leno Jr. is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and since Jermon Bushrod injured his back in Week 3 of the the 2015 season, Leno, Jr. has been the starter at left tackle in the 29 games since. Leno Jr. has established himself as consistent and durable, but public opinions on him outside of Halas Hall cast doubt on how high the ceiling is for the final (seventh round) draft pick of the Phil Emery regime.

Pro Football Focus’ grading system has its fans and detractors. While the Boise State product showed improvement in 2016 (70.4 grade) compared to 2015 (46.1), they ranked him 44th out of 64 offensive tackles. Also, according to PFF, Leno Jr. and right tackle Bobby Massie allowed 73 quarterback pressures and committed 14 penalties, while grading out poorly in the run game as a tandem.

Yet there’s also the overall picture to look at. The team allowed just 26 sacks, ninth-fewest in the NFL despite three different starting quarterbacks. Football Outsiders ranked the Bears offensive line seventh in pass protection and eighth in rushing. But critics of the two tackles will say the main reason for those rankings is the strength in the middle, between Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, and Kyle Long (for half a season, at least).  Not that Leno, Jr. hasn’t been closely evaluated already, but as his future, and payday, looms. It’ll be an even more interesting watch this season.

“I’m always ready to take that next step,” said the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder who’ll turn 26 when the Bears host the Vikings on Monday, Oct. 9. “ Every year you can take a step. Whether it’s your rookie year to your second year, third year to your fourth, or ninth year to your tenth, you’re always trying to take another step, always get better. That’s my job right now, that’s my goal.”

And he’ll have to do it under his third different offensive line coach in his four years, as Jeremiah Washburn takes over for Dave Magazu. Leno Jr. told me there have been mostly minor tweaks and adjustments when it comes to new position coaches. He was most noticeable (that’s a bad thing), late in the season, when he was beaten a few times for sacks, but that didn’t do much to cloud his overall performance in his boss’ mind.

[MORE: Can the Bears win 'Nervous Season'?]

“To be honest, Leno was a real pleasant surprise, really exceeded expectations there,” general manager Ryan Pace said back on Jan. 4. “And I thought as he gained confidence, he got better and better. He’s very athletic, he’s long, got good balance. So (he) did very well. We have positive vibes about him coming out of the season.”

Leno, Jr. will make about $1.8 million this season as he finishes out his rookie deal. But as he enters this contract year, there are currently 14 left tackles in the NFL (including all the so-called “elite”) making an average of at least $10 million annually on their current contracts:

PLAYER | TEAM | MONEY

Trent Williams (WSH), $13.6

Russell Okung (LAC), $13.25

Terron Armstead (NO), $13

Tyron Smith (DAL), $12.2

Cordy Glenn (BUF), $12

Eric Fisher (KC), $12

David Bakhtiari (GB), $12

Riley Reiff (MIN), $11.75

Joe Thomas (CLE), $11.5

Andrew Whitworth (LAR), $11.25

Matt Kalil (CAR), $11.1

Anthony Castonzo (IND), $10.95

Jason Peters (PHI), $10.8

Nate Solder (NE), $10

Other left tackles averaging less than $10 million annually on their current deals include Houston’s Duane Brown, San Francisco’s Joe Staley, Atlanta's Jake Matthews and Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan. Plus, keep in mind here that Reiff (Detroit) and Kalil (Minnesota) were first-round picks by Bears' NFC North rivals deemed not good enough to keep around. Yet they still found believers willing to write a big check elsewhere.  If not the Bears, Leno, Jr. may find similar interest elsewhere with a season comparable to 2016. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. 11 years ago, Pace and the Saints made Northwestern’s Zach Strief a seventh round pick, and he’s hung around — not becoming a starter until his sixth season, yet being a linchpin at right tackle since.

From the above list, only the 29-year-old Solder is a pending free agent, and it’s hard to see the Patriots letting him walk, though Bill Belichick has done stranger things that’ve worked out in the end. Leno Jr. is the next-best option, because the others really aren’t. Oakland’s Donald Penn is 34, while the Chargers’ Chris Hairston, the Ravens’ James Hurst, and the Dolphins’ Sam Young have all started less than half time they’ve been in the league.

If the Bears let Leno Jr. walk and look toward the draft, Notre Dame senior Mike McGlinchey is generally regarded as the highest-rated left tackle heading into the fall with Texas’ Connor Williams, Orlando Brown of Oklahoma, Mitch Hyatt of Clemson and Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State owning various first and second-round grades. 

Regardless of how the upcoming season goes, figure the Bears will still have needs to be addressed in the draft, “best available” or not. If he doesn’t have a believer in Pace already, another step forward by Leno Jr. could earn himself a payday, and stability — personally, and for the team as they figure out how to get the best protection possible for their quarterback of the future.