The Bears might have just bought more than a starting-caliber right tackle, they might have purchased some flexibility come the draft, which is one month from today.
Kevin Shaffer agreed to terms on an $8 million, three-year contract Wednesday that initially gives the Bears some badly needed depth on the offensive line, as well as some experience. Shaffer has traded places with John St. Clair, who signed with the Cleveland Browns last week within days of Shaffer's release by the new George Kokinis/Eric Mangini regime.
Shaffer, 29, has missed only two starts over the course of the last five seasons and at the minimum will be a swing tackle. He's expected to compete immediately for a starting job and that could allow the coaching staff to make Frank Omiyale's stay at right tackle a short one after the free-agent pickup was moved from left guard after one day of minicamp last week.
"It feels great and I am glad we were able to work something out,'' Shaffer said. "It's something we were talking about for a while and I am definitely excited. The goal is to come in and win a starting job. We haven't talked too much about that, or at length or anything, but when I get there I want to show them what I can do. I have always been a hard worker and I am in a situation where I am going to prove myself.''
Shaffer will fly in from Cleveland on Thursday and will take a physical before signing the contract. He will receive a $1.75 million signing bonus and will earn $2.75 million in the first year of the contract. The Browns had tried to keep him but they wanted him to reduce his salary first. The sides talked about it for four days before Shaffer instructed his agent Alan Herman that he wanted out. Herman contacted general manager Jerry Angelo immediately, and the agent hammered out a deal with contract negotiator Cliff Stein Tuesday and today.
Shaffer's addition doesn't mean the Bears will not target an offensive tackle in the first round. They worked out Arizona's Eben Britton today. But with him on board it makes it possible for Angelo to wait until the second round to add a young tackle, and perhaps even Round 3. But the belief is it will still be a top priority.
Before getting into negotiations, Shaffer did his homework on the team with Roberto Garza, who he played alongside in Atlanta.
"When we were together we had a competitive nature in the weight room and on the field,'' Shaffer said. "We were good friends and everything he said has been all positive.''