Chicago Sun-Times

Can Bears afford to make a run at a free-agent offensive tackle?

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As it stands, the Bears have virtually no salary cap space, if they elect to use the $8.4 million franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton.

Although the Bears are about $12 million under the salary cap, the franchise tag and the space needed for at least the team's top two draft picks ($2-3 million) leaves them virtually no room.

I clearly spell out in this story that the Bears can easily create space by restructuring, extending or cutting a handful of players.

The reality is, it's going to be a buyer's market, and the Bears can create space to afford whatever position they choose. Look no further than the contract the New York Giants got offensive tackle Will Beatty to sign Wednesday.

It's five years, $38.75 million, with $19 million guaranteed. But the Giants structured the deal so it would only eat up $3.55 million in cap space in 2013. The Bears could do something similar for any of the many free-agent offensive tackles out there.

Personally, I think the Bears will make a serious run at two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who worked closely with new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer in New Orleans. One would assume his deal would be somewhat similar to Beatty's.

But as Spotrac shows in this posting, Beatty's cap number increases dramatically in the second year and thereafter. That's something the Bears -- and all other teams -- have to be mindful of.

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New plan. Go get Eric Winston. Released by the Chiefs, probably able to be signed for $4M per year, and is one of the better right tackles in the league. Drop Webb, and let Winston and Carimi compete for both sides, along with whatever else we bring in through the draft.

It's about improving the quality of players on the offensive line. Carimi showed he can play guard, but Webb has shown he can't play tackle. Winston fits our budget, and significantly upgrades our OL talent.

Phil, get it done early!

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on March 1, 2013 9:20 AM.

J'Marcus Webb arrested on drug charges was the previous entry in this blog.

Henry Melton negotiations on a long-term deal start at $18.59 million guaranteed is the next entry in this blog.

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