We're just past 21 1/2 hours into free agency and while the action hasn't been as fast as it was a year ago for the Bears when they were hoping to pry Bernard Berrian out of Minnesota and then plotting to get Lance Briggs back at their price, it's been an interesting start.
It's clear the club has out the trenches at the top of the list for this offseason. Rod Marinelli has been brought in to rework the defensive line, and the first move in free agency was signing versatile offensive lineman Frank Omiyale to a four-year contract. Next on general manager Jerry Angelo's wish list appears to be veteran John St. Clair, who can also play four positions on the line.
One of the first signs here is that the Bears want to get bigger on the offensive line. While the natural first reaction was that Omiyale would step in immediately as the right tackle--the Bears don't have one on their roster--Angelo said the club will first look at him at guard, most likely left guard. Angelo isn't pigeon holing him there, and said he'll likely get looks elsewhere, but that's the first idea. Clearly, that means work remains to be done at tackle. St. Clair and a high draft pick could accomplish that. Getting another lineman on board would also aid Angelo in is quest to not be need-driven with the 18th pick in the draft.
"The draft is an ever-moving target right now and what we are able to accomplish in free agency prior to the draft gives us more latitude with the draft and that's what we're trying to do here,'' he said. ``So we don't want to go into the draft like we were last year and we had to get fixated on a position. We don't want to do that. I think everybody would like to draft the best player available but that is easier said and done. What you normally do in the draft, particularly in those first three rounds, is draft your needs. And then you guys come back and say we overdrafted them and took them too high.''
Stay tuned on the St. Clair front.
*** No word on a landing spot for Rex Grossman. The ex-Bears quarterback said earlier this week in an appearance on Sirius NFL radio it might take a week or two for him to find a new home. There was a market for quarterbacks Friday, though. Patrick Ramsey visited the Houston Texans. Ryan Fitzpatrick visited the Buffalo Bills.
*** That $40 million, four-year extension Tommie Harris got last summer doesn't look so big now. Harris' deal, which included $10 million guaranteed, was something Albert Haynesworth kept a close eye on. Haynesworth's agent Chad Speck checked in with us from time to time as negotiations for Harris were on and off last offseason. They wanted to know where the market was for Harris with Haynesworth eyeing his own bite at the apple. He got a bite at the whole bushel Friday when he signed a $100 million, seven-year contract that contains a whopping $41 million in guarantees. He is the league's first $100 million man on defense.
"I can't answer that,'' Angelo said when asked if it was good or bad for the game. "[The Redskins] do what they feel they have to do and Haynesworth obviously was one of the more coveted players in free agency. You saw all the tags that went out this year, a record number of franchise tags, so the market was a lot smaller. I alluded to that when we spoke over the weekend and it's a supply and demand business. The guys that are out there, that benefits them. Record-breaking contracts, certain positions there is going to continue to be inflation. As we now know, that's one of them.''
Mike Sando over at ESPN.com takes a look at the top annual earners at defensive tackle here. It's an interesting look.
*** Touched base with Kennard McGuire, the agent for wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and he said if the Bears have interest in his client it's news to him. Doesn't sound like the Bears are going to be a player for a receiver, not now any way. They've shown no interest in Mike Furrey either, and the ex-Detroit Lion might land in a high-powered offense on the East Coast. The opportunity is going to be there for Earl Bennett, the third-round pick from last year. He's going to need to deliver quickly as he won't get the Mark Bradley Nine Lives treatment.
*** For what it's worth, another safety with free safety ability was taken out of play when Chris Crocker re-signed in Cincinnati. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals re-sign another of their own--Cedric Benson.
That's what we've got for now. Check back again soon and thanks for following us all day.