At this point, John St. Clair figures he's headed out into the open market.
Free agency begins in two weeks, on Feb. 27, and the veteran offensive tackle has yet to hear from the Bears.
"I feel I have no choice,'' St. Clair said. "If you haven't heard anything, of course you're going to the market. I haven't heard anything as of yet. I'm just down here [in Florida] enjoying my time off.''
The quiet front doesn't mean the Bears have ruled St. Clair, who started 16 games at left tackle last season, out of their plans. The organization has been going through meetings to plot the offseason plan and teams retain exclusive negotiating rights with their own players up until free agency opens. A lot of times business gets started and completed at the combine, which opens Thursday in Indianapolis. The Bears finalized a deal for quarterback Rex Grossman in Indianapolis last year before he entered free agency and also crafted extensions for quarterback Kyle Orton and tight end Desmond Clark.
While the spotlight at the combine is on the draft-eligible players, it's the place where free-agent contracts are hatched. Veteran agents will call teams and ask if they're interested in meeting. If the agent represents a player entering free agency that the club wants to see in its uniform, the parties will meet up. Never does more business get done in the hotel rooms of downtown Indianapolis.
St. Clair, 31, has been a valuable member of the line since signing in 2005. He's the most versatile linemen the club has had in the Jerry Angelo era, starting at both tackle positions and left guard. He was being paid as a swing tackle but has started the last 19 games for the club and is seeking a starting job. His first choice is to get that opportunity with the Bears but he's also looking for longterm security. First-round pick Chris Williams will be handed the left tackle job and the only way St. Clair would get a starting chance with the team is if the left guard spot manned by Josh Beekman, a former fourth-round pick, is opened up.
"I want to be a starter, definitely,'' St. Clair said. "They know how I feel. I don't know what's going on. I'm laid back. I'm playing it by ear and letting my agent handle it. He knows what I want."
One way or another, the Bears need to acquire a swing tackle. If they don't bring back St. Clair, it's a sign they could be looking at a tackle early in the draft. That could be part of the plan any way with John Tait entering the final year of his contract.