The Chicago Bears' hopes to solidify the offensive line rest on the shoulders of a 39-year-old Jason Peters, who was on a fishing boat two weeks ago when he got a call from Juan Castillo about playing in the Windy City in 2021.
"I wasn't monitoring nothing," Peters said of his status as a free agent, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "I was fishing when Juan called me. I was just on a creek [at home in Texas]. My phone rang, and it was Juan. I was like, 'Uh, oh. I know what this is.'"
It was an offer to join Castillo -- a former line coach in Philadelphia -- in Chicago, where the left tackle job was up in the air. The Bears drafted rookie tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round to play that spot, but back issues knocked him out all training camp, and he ultimately underwent surgery. Inexplicably (especially given Jenkins' injury history in college), Chicago cut incumbent LT Charles Leno Jr. earlier in the offseason.
Into the void walks Jason Peters.
A likely Hall of Famer when he eventually does retire, Peters has nine Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pros to his name. Yet, his last Pro Bowl was in 2016, as he's dealt with injuries the past four seasons. In 2020 he spent two different stints on IR, playing in just eight games and ending the season on the shelf.
Peters has a message for those who doubt he can hold up as the Bears' every-snap left tackle for an entire season.
"I just tell them to come watch the game or practice and see if they can [tell] if I'm 39 out there," Peters said. "I feel good. I've still got my quicks, my strength. It's [a matter of] getting my legs up under me because the guys started in April -- they got a big head start on me. So I'm just trying to get my legs where their legs are right now, doing extra stuff, conditioning stuff and weight room right now."
If he can stay healthy, Peters could be a big add for the Bears at this stage. But even Castillo admits he doesn't know how much the veteran has left in the tank.
"That's a good question," Castillo said. "When I had him before, he was an elite athlete. When I looked at the [recent] tape, I thought he was a good athlete. He's not an elite athlete, he's a good athlete, which is still pretty good.
"We'll bring back the technique stuff that we did when we were together. I just showed him all the cut-ups when we were together and he was playing pretty good. Played square. If we do that, I think he's going to be pretty successful. Like he said, 'Juan, I've done it before. I'll get that technique back again.'"
The Bears' season -- and the future of Justin Fields under center -- might be resting on a 39-year-old Peters recapturing the form of his 29-year-old self.