Former Ole Miss offensive lineman Bradley Sowell was well-versed in NFL free agency when he hit the open market for the third time of his professional career this offseason.
He took a selective approach this time around, with the criteria for his next stop rather simple. His preference was to sign with a Super Bowl contender, but he didn’t rule out any teams that were in the midst of rebuilding. Opportunity mattered, and Sowell wanted to play.
In the end, Sowell – a two-time All-SEC honoree at Ole Miss who started 36 of his final 37 games, including starts in the final 28 at left tackle – landed with the Chicago Bears on a one-year deal.
“I was talking small talk to a lot of teams, but I actually chose this year to be extremely picky,” he said. “I was going to wait until I felt like the opportunity was best; I wasn’t going to just take the first offer that came. I obviously had some other offers from teams, but I wasn’t going to take the first. I wanted a situation that was good. I really wanted a contender. Either a contender or a team that really needed guys to rebuild. That’s kind of what I found with the Bears, on top of coming up here with Bobby (Massie) as well. It’s cool to be back with Bobby.”
Sowell is a five-year veteran who previously played for the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
“It’s cool,” Sowell said. “Obviously you’d like to stay put, but you’ve got to go where they want you in this league. You’ve got to go where the opportunity is best. But I’m excited, though. I’m excited to be a Bear. It’s an old-fashioned organization. It’ll be fun. To say you were a Bear, you’ve got to do it.”
Sowell is reunited with Bobby Massie, his former teammate at both Ole Miss and Arizona. Massie played in every game over three seasons (29 starts) as a Rebel from 2009-2011, acting as the right-tackle bookend opposite Sowell. The pair blocked for 14 individual 100-yard rushing performances.
Massie bypassed his senior season and entered the 2012 NFL Draft. He was selected in the fourth round (No. 112) by the Cardinals. In all, Sowell and Massie are entering their seventh season as teammates: three seasons at Ole Miss, three in Arizona and now one in Chicago.
“It’s pretty cool to come up here and know someone right away,” Sowell said. Sowell is currently staying with Massie as he gets settled in to his new surroundings. Offseason workouts begin in earnest May 22, while mandatory minicamp is set for June 13-15.
Sowell made nine starts last season for the Seahawks. Massie and Charles Leno, the incumbent Chicago starters at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, are expected to begin organized team activities as the first-team tackles.
“When you come into a new locker room, you’re the fresh meat,” Sowell said. “At least I know Bob. It’ll be cool. Hopefully we can work our way to both being on the field at the same time like we did at Arizona and multiple times at Ole Miss. It’ll be fun to be back out there and have two Ole Miss tackles on the team.”
The 6-foot-7, 309-pound Sowell – a former undrafted free agent who began his NFL career as a practice squad player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – suffered an MCL injury last season and missed four games. He started the first six games of the season at left tackle, protecting Seattle franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.
“I’m good,” Sowell said. “I hurt my knee last year for a little bit, but it’s healed. That’s really the only injury I’ve ever had.”