Mark Slough knew he would have interest in Frank Omiyale but he didn't expect his phone to go off like it did when free agency began late Thursday night.
The Bears landed the versatile offensive lineman after 10 teams expressed varying degrees of interest in signing the 26-year-old, including the Carolina Panthers, who he spent the last two seasons with.
"Chicago is very fortunate,'' said Slough, Omiyale's agent. ``There were other teams that were extra high on him. This is really an incredible story.''
Omiyale's story began in Week 5 when he filled in for Jordan Gross at left tackle. The Pro Bowl performer was out with a concussion. Omiyale helped open up some big running lanes in a 34-0 shutout of the Kansas City Chiefs. Then, when Carolina played the New York Giants in a high-profile Week 16 meeting, Omiyale played the entire second half at left tackle as Panthers lost Gross and right tackle Jeff Otah. Again, he played well. But other than preseason action, the fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2005 didn't have any action for teams to judge.
``He looked like an NFL left tackle should look,'' Slough said. ``That is what set him on this path. A lot of people are going to say free agency and Frank Omiyale is one of the first persons to sign? The level of interest in him though is indicative of what kind of players teams believe he will be. The level of interest speaks volumes. People knew.''
Omiyale's deal is worth between $11.5 million and $14 million, and Slough said the maximum value is easily attainable with play-time incentives. He's a big-legged guy who is strong and has good reach.
Omiyale can also play guard but right now he likely projects as the right tackle, at least until the Bears better define their line in the draft. This casts into doubt whether or not the club will work to re-sign veteran John St. Clair. He is seeking a starting opportunity and it's clear the Bears' first target was Omiyale as there was no movement toward a deal with St. Clair.
Omiyale is on his way to town to complete a physical.
Stay tuned as the first day of free agency continues.