Need No. 3--Offensive tackle
Players on roster
LT Orlando Pace (signed through 2011)
RT Chris Williams (2012)
OT Kevin Shaffer (2011)
OT Cody Balogh (2010)
The order we have been using for the Bears' needs comes from the file we produced for the Sporting News. That order was changed after the Jay Cutler trade and signing of Orlando Pace, and while we updated the list for the magazine, we were going off the old one. We wrote Wednesday that free safeties were next, and that's changed. So, you can easily determine that free safety and wide receiver are the two positions remaining. We apologizing for any confusion. On with the breakdown and explanation of need. General manager Jerry Angelo said on Tuesday that drafting a lineman, not just a tackle, would put the Bears in the unfamiliar position of having to carry nine linemen on the 53-man roster. The team already has eight veterans in place--Pace, Williams, Shaffer, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Josh Beekman and Dan Buenning. A team can carry a ninth lineman but that spot would have to come from somewhere else--a third quarterback or a fifth running back (tailbacks and fullbacks combined) would have to be sacrificed, as an example.
A ninth offensive lineman would also cut into the numbers that special teams coordinator Dave Toub has to work with in his group. It might be a sacrifice worth making if a tackle falls all the way to the Bears at No. 49. Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt would be very difficult to pass on but one scout said not only his Loadholt unlikely to make that drop, he believes he will go at the end of the first round. Why would a tackle make sense? Remember what a jam the Bears got themselves into by failing to draft a tackle in the first six rounds for five consecutive years? They believe they're set for the future with Williams, and the hope is Pace buys them not one but two years. Certainly Shaffer is an able backup. But if Angelo takes care of the position here, he might not have to worry about it again. He also pointed out Tuesday that the Bears are better at tackle than they ever have been with four players with experience at left tackle. That counts Omiyale, the free-agent pickup who we have listed at guard because he is expected to take over between Pace and Kreutz at left guard. Angelo also mentioned a change in philosophy. Previously, the Bears looked for guards with the ability to play center. They have three of those in Beekman, Buenning and Garza. Now, the profile the team is using is one that searches for tackles who can also play guard. That's probably a reflection of the stated desire to get more size and bulk up front. The Bears have had far more success constructing the offensive line through free agency than any other way but a young building block is needed to eventually pair with Williams. If the Bears pass, it shows the confidence they have in Pace, who is in terrific shape right now. But it only delays the need to fill a longstanding need. A month ago, tackle was still the No. 1 need even after Shaffer had been added. Picking up Pace didn't push it that far down the list.
Who the Bears have been looking at
The Bears started out with line coach Harry Hiestand taking a look at many of the top prospects, including Loadholt and Arizona's Eben Britton. Earlier this week, Hiestand went to Ball State to put Robert Brewster through a workout. Brewster played right tackle there and some believe he will be a guard in the NFL. The team also hosted Eastern Michigan's T.J. Lang for an official visit. Lang played left tackle in the MAC and will be a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He's gotten a lot of buzz the last month.
Coming Friday: Free safety.