INDIANAPOLIS--Maybe the price for John St. Clair just went up.
The draft prospects were overshadowed on Day 1 of the scouting combine with blockbuster deals done around the league Thursday, and another biggie got knocked out Friday.
The Miami Dolphins didn't place the franchise tag on right tackle Vernon Carey and they didn't need to as they struck a deal on a six-year contract to keep him in place. Carey's deal is worth $42 million. He was considered by many to be the best available tackle moving toward the open market after Jordan Gross was locked down by Carolina on Thursday.
Carey's signing removes another name from a shrinking list of tackles the Bears can consider, and they've got to do something. With John Tait set to retire, Chris Williams, the untested first-round pick from 2008, and Cody Balogh, who spent the entire season on the practice squad, are the only offensive tackles under contract. As it stands now, that means a lot of extra work for long snapper Pat Mannelly when the veteran minicamp opens March 17 at Halas Hall.
If re-signing St. Clair was a priority, it probably would have been done by now, or there would have at least been significant movement. As it stands, free agency opens next Friday. St. Clair will not command the money Carey pulled down, but he's started 19 consecutive games and he knows the offense. He's also represented by Ben Dogra, the same agent who crafted the Carey contract. The going rate for starting tackles, on the low side, hovers near $5 million per season. When the Bears originally signed St. Clair in 2005, he was considered a swing tackle with the versatility to play inside. He started for them while earning backup pay.
If it's not St. Clair, perhaps the team will consider someone like Marvel Smith, but he's missed portions of the last two seasons because of back issues. The bottom line is the Carey deal is good business for every tackle looking for a contract.