The Bears have action on two fronts as they try to get involved in the Jay Cutler Sweepstakes while also working diligently to sign free-agent offensive tackle Orlando Pace.
The 33-year-old is a seven-time Pro Bowl performer and while he's missed 25 games over the last three seasons because of injury, he was out of only two games last season. Acquiring Pace would instantly give the Bears more freedom at the top of the draft. They could look at a wide receiver, defensive lineman or perhaps even a quarterback. Pace would come in and give the team three tackles and while general manager Jerry Angelo would be wise to look for a developmental tackle, he could wait until the second or third round.
Agent Kennard McGuire said in a text message that Pace's visit to Halas Hall Monday went very well. Pace didn't meet with the offensive coaches, though, as they were out of the building on vacation. He did receive a physical.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the club is seeking to sign Pace and install him immediately at left tackle, a move that would send Chris Williams to right tackle and make the newly signed Kevin Shaffer the swing tackle. Williams, the first-round pick a year ago, has been projected as the starting left tackle. He would have been that last season had he not gone down with a back injury an hour into the second day of training camp.
Making Pace the left tackle makes sense. It's the only spot he has played. Williams is hardly entrenched at this point. Plenty of standout left tackles have started on the right side. Jonathan Ogden spent his first season in Baltimore playing right tackle before becoming the dominant left tackle of his era. Jordan Gross was a right tackle in Carolina before last season. That didn't stop him from landing more than $30 million guaranteed from the Panthers. John Tait played both positions in Kansas City and with the Bears. Fact is, Williams might be more sturdy as a run blocker on the right side. That's at least the take of one pro scout who has written a report on Pace for the last three seasons for his club.
"Orlando still has it pass protection-wise,'' the scout said Wednesday afternoon. ``As far as pass sets and pass blocking, yeah. But his run blocking is declining seriously. He doesn't come off the ball well on runs, he doesn't sustain well. If you wan to just throw the ball, he'll be fine. I gave him a decent grade. I wrote him up again this year for us. I just think his fire is gone. That's what I've seen the last three years.''
Could a change of scenery, a new team and a new setting re-energize him?
"Now that could possibly happen,'' the scout responded. ``Maybe you're on to something there.''
The next question is at what price does Pace come? At the low end of the scale, starting tackles are receiving $5 million per season. That's what John St. Clair asked for when he sent a counterproposal to the Bears back in February. They were not going to pay St. Clair, a one-time understudy to Pace, that kind of money. Although there isn't a big market for Pace right now (Baltimore is the only other team known to be in play), they might have to pay Pace that much. Maybe a little more one league source suggested. He threw out the figure of $25 million over four seasons. Spread the money out and he might not ever hit some of the dough on the back end. If he does, the Bears got more out of him than they probably expected.