Bears 'proud' of Braxton Jones' work in 2022, and he intends to prove he's the long-term answer at left tackle


(670 The Score) Bears general manager Ryan Poles saw potential as he scouted Southern Utah offensive tackle prospect Braxton Jones last January at the Senior Bowl. A year later, he still sees it.

A fifth-round pick of the Bears in the NFL Draft in 2022, Jones started all 17 games at left tackle and was the team’s lone player to play 100% of the snaps on one side of the football. The 23-year-old Jones graded out as the 20th-best offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus and as the top rookie tackle – from a draft class that featured eight offensive linemen being selected in the first round.

While the Bears’ offensive line was once again in flux last season as it dealt with injuries and a frequent shuffling of personnel, Jones stood out in Poles' mind.

“I was proud of Braxton,” Poles said. “He’s got a long ways to go to reach his ceiling, but for his path – not many people look at the schedule for a player who goes into the offseason, Senior Bowl, combine, comes in as a fifth-round pick, battles through camp, gets a spot and then plays every single snap through the season. That’s an accomplishment right there. That tells me he’s wired right. He’s got mental toughness, roll the ups and downs. So, I’m hoping that he continues to work on his body, his technique, and that’s someone that we can play with and be successful with for a while.”

The Bears are set to enter free agency with around $119 million in projected salary cap space, the most of any team in the NFL. They also boast eight selections in the NFL Draft, including the No. 1 overall pick. There will be opportunities to bring in a more proven tackle in free agency or perhaps land a prized prospect in the first round – which would likely be the product of a trade down.

Whether the Bears stand by Jones as their left tackle heading into training camp remains to be seen, but Poles is looking at what he could have with Jones as a promising piece to this team’s future.

For his part, Jones believes he can be a cornerstone in the Bears’ future plans and intends to prove it.

“I’m proud of myself,” Jones said. “I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much, but it’s been an honor, it’s been fun, I've learned a lot. It's been an up-and-down season for me. I definitely could’ve been a lot more consistent. But overall, I'm proud of myself.

“I got to get in the weight room. I'm going to grind it out. You're going to see something a little bit different. I'm going to stick to my word.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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