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The Bears have made it official with a series of moves today to reach the 53-man roster limit before proceeding to the start of the 2009 season. The players will get back to work with practice Monday at Halas Hall. Here are the moves reported on the team's Web site:

CB Charles Tillman was promoted from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster

RB Kevin Jones was placed on inured reserve with a torn ligament in his left ankle

DE Henry Melton was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury

S Dahna Deleston was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury

Melton's ankle injury was not believed to be serious and it could be a way to stash the fourth-round pick from Texas on the squad for a year. The problem is he cannot practice while on IR so the only work he can do is in the classroom and weight room. This marks the third time in four years the Bears have placed at least one draft pick on IR prior to the opening of the season. It could be concerns about depth on the interior of the line cost him a spot as the Bears kept tackle Matt Toeaina, who right now figures to be third in the rotation at nose tackle.

Here are the official cuts:

QB Brett Basanez
FB Jason Davis
FB Will Ta'ufo,ou
WR Eric Peterman
WR Brandon Rideau
G Johan Asiata
OT Cody Balogh
G Dan Buenning
C Donovan Raiola
DE Ervin Baldwin
DE Joe Clermond
LB Marcus Freeman
LB Kevin Malast
LB Darrell McClover
LB Mike Rivera
CB Rudy Burgess
CB Rod Hood
CB Marcus Hamilton
CB Woodny Turenne

Choosing the 53-man roster is not an exact science.

Figuring out the practice squad, well, that is a pure guessing game. But that won't stop me from giving it a shot here. Final cuts are due to the league office by 5 p.m. on Saturday. Clubs can begin assembling an eight-man practice squad at 11 a.m. Sunday. Teams will let players now when they are waiving them that they would like to make them a priority to add to their practice squad.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has a history of identifying about four or five players he wants to keep the entire season, or most of the season on the practice squad. He uses the other three or four spots in a revolving manner, bringing in players for a look that might last a week to a month. Then, he filters them out and brings in new players. It allows the Bears to look at more than a dozen players over the course of the season.

Typically, he will keep two offensive linemen, at least one defensive lineman, a linebacker, a tight end and a fullback. The Bears are also expected to place a quarterback on the practice squad this season. They generally fill about five slots from within and then go out and sign players they liked heading into the draft who are cut loose elsewhere.

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Getting back to our position-by-position breakdowns as we move closer to the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we move to the offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Orlando Pace, 6-7, 325, 13th season, Ohio State; LG Frank Omiyale, 6-4, 315, 5th season, Tennessee Tech; C Olin Kreutz, 6-2, 292, 12th season, Washington; RG Roberto Garza, 6-2, 310, 9th season, Texas A&M-Kingsville; RT Chris Williams, 6-6, 315, 2nd season, Vanderbilt.

Others

Johan Asiata, 6-4, 300, Rookie, UNLV
Cody Balogh, 6-6, 303, 1st season, Montana
Josh Beekman, 6-2, 310, 3rd season, Boston College
Dan Buenning, 6-4, 300, 5th season, Wisconsin
Dennis Conley, 6-2, 300, Rookie, Hampton
Lance Louis, 6-3, 305, Rookie, San Diego State
Tyler Reed, 6-5, 305, 1st season, Penn State
Kevin Shaffer, 6-5, 318, 8th season, Tulsa

Projected depth chart

LT: Pace, Shaffer
LG: Omiyale, Beekman
C: Kreutz, Beekman or Buenning
RG: Garza, Beekman
RT: Williams, Shaffer

2009 salary cap numbers

Johan Asiata $311,666
Cody Balogh $315,200
Josh Beekman $563,325
Dan Buenning $905,200
Dennis Conley $311,000
Roberto Garza $1,565,000
Olin Kreutz $4,133,333
Lance Louis $320,495
Frank Omiyale $4,950,000
Orlando Pace $5,333,333
Tyler Reed $317,280
Kevin Shaffer $2,383,333
Chris Williams $2,149,700

Number of offensive linemen on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 9

Projected number of offensive linemen on 2009 roster at start of the season: 8

The skinny: The Bears are reshaping their offensive line for the second consecutive year after using the same five (Tait-Brown-Kreutz-Garza-Miller) for the three previous seasons. They're set to open with their third left tackle, Pace, and third right tackle, Williams, in as many seasons. Nothing is official but Omiyale, the newcomer in free agency, is expected to supplant Beekman at left guard giving the front a new look at 60 percent of the positions. Line coach Harry Hiestand has done a credible job with what he's been given, which for most of his tenure has been a veteran group with a handful of castoffs from other cities. Hiestand didn't break stride last season when Williams was lost on the second day of training camp, forcing him to play John St. Clair at left tackle when the plan was for the veteran to be at left guard. Now, general manager Jerry Angelo is hopeful that his medical risk will pan out in a big way.

Ultimately, right tackle is not where the club projects Williams, the first-round draft pick from 2008, to be. But the hope is the team can squeeze a couple of Ruben Brown-type years out of Pace. He missed 25 games over the last three seasons in St. Louis, but Pace started 14 games last season. One NFC scout said he still looks solid as a pass blocker and the issue for the former No. 1 overall pick is run blocking. Pace was in good condition during the offseason program and it could be that a change of scenery and escaping a struggling franchise will reinvigorate him. The Bears have covered themselves in the event that injuries happen as they have Shaffer in a swing tackle role, not to mention Omiyale, who can play outside. That type of flexibility on the line will be an asset and there is little doubt right now the team will go with eight linemen to open the season. That was the plan last year until Williams had back surgery in August. In choosing to keep him on the 53-man roster, the Bears forced themselves to keep a ninth lineman. Omiyale should provide a little more bulk inside in replacing Beekman, and that was one of the stated goals early in the offseason. Kreutz remains the anchor of the group and with the Bears certain to face fewer eight-man fronts with Jay Cutler at quarterback, it will be interesting to see if the perception of him changes. Some have suggested the six-time Pro Bowl performer has been in decline but with Cutler and Matt Forte able to better keep opponents honest, the Bears' run blocking might look different.

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Emptying out the notebook for everything that is leftover from Wednesday's opening OTA:

*** If there was one undrafted college free agent that stood out now that the veterans are in the mix it was Louisville cornerback Woodny Turenne. By no stretch is it going to be easy for Turenne to make the final 53-man roster, and basing any odds after one OTA is impossible, but he made some plays. Turenne made a nice move to jump in front of a Caleb Hanie pass intended for Juaquin Iglesias and pick it off. He also had some plays on the ball.

With the long hair coming out of the back of his helmet, he looks like Al Harris running around out there. That can't be a bad thing. Turenne has good size at 6-1, 182 pounds, and he's shown decent speed and most importantly instincts. There are eight cornerbacks on the roster, although that number drops to seven with Corey Graham now at free safety. The Bears are going to kick the tires on veteran Rod Hood, who will be at practice today, a workout closed to media. Adding Hood makes sense because he be a third veteran corner.

Turenne was a junior college transfer and played well at times in school, suffering a broken clavicle at the end of last season. He was not invited to the combine and didn't have a particularly good pro day so that dropped him to the undrafted ranks where the Bears scooped him up as a free agent. The key for him moving forward will be to continue to show up every opportunity he gets. If he can prove to have some worth on special teams, even better.

*** If we didn't mention it Wednesday, looks like the Zack Bowman to safety movement has ended. He was back at left cornerback filling in for Charles Tillman (shoulder). With Graham going to safety it's fair to assume Bowman will remain at cornerback.

*** Here is how the second team offensive line stacked up--LT Cody Balogh, LG Frank Omiyale, C Tyler Reed, RG Dan Buenning, RT Kevin Shaffer. Buenning worked in practice as a backup center for most of the second half of last season. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has suggested he'll be in position to compete with Roberto Garza at right guard. The Bears have expressed their confidence in Garza however.

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)

Need

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.

Plenty of football news today so we're just sitting down to sift through our mail now. Before we know it, we'll be off to minicamp on Tuesday. Let's get right to it.

Q: If you were general manager of the Bears, what would you give to the Denver Broncos to get Jay Cutler? What would it take to get him? Who else has the best shot of trading for him?

Duane, Parts Unknown

A: When you step back and survey the entire situation and how it unfolded in Denver, it's fascinating. There are a couple things that struck me from the beginning. First, had Josh McDaniels done something to royally hack off Bill Belichick? Did he do something to earn the Mangini treatment? Signing wide receiver Jabar Gaffney away from New England probably didn't go over real well in Foxboro, Mass. That was my immediate reaction, though, how in the world was this thing blowing up and did anything precipitate it. Did anything? I don't know but I can tell you it stinks from here.

My second reaction was what kind of evaluation did the Broncos make of Cutler? Sure, McDaniels feels like he raised Matt Cassel in this league. He probably did. But there are other people involved in the decision-making process there--including one of the more respected owners in the league in Pat Bowlen--and a club doesn't start talking trade for a quarterback it KNOWS is a franchise quarterback. That's just it. Is Cutler a franchise passer? An upgrade over anything the Bears have had since a healthy Jim McMahon? You bet your Ditka sweater. But a slam dunk, bona fide star for the next decade? I don't know. Probably not with the Bears' current offensive core. Cutler went to a Pro Bowl after his second full season as a starter but there's a lot of room for improvement in his game. Before this meltdown there were those in certain league circles who questioned Cutler. So, besides a reunion with Cassel, what was McDaniels' thinking in plotting a trade? You've got to consider some of these questions.

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There was some more movement today in free agency with Laveranues Coles landing in Cincinnati and Matt Birk, the Pro Bowl center from Minnesota, heading to Baltimore, which was able to re-sign Ray Lewis. Let's get to the mailbag:

Q: It's never good to start a statement like this, but call me crazy. If USC's Rey Maualuga drops to Chicago at 18, would the Bears let that thought cross their minds? Would they consider him? Mock drafts have him going anywhere from fifth overall to the end of the first round. Does it make sense to draft the top-rated inside linebacker in the draft even though the Bears have Brian Urlacher? Would the Bears allow themselves to look into the future at that all-important-in-Chicago position, or do they just have too many needs to address? I keep hearing Jerry Angelo say that he's trying to put Chicago in position to draft the best player available, regardless of position. Does he mean any position except middle linebacker?

Sean Q., Eureka, Calif.

A: That's a good question and it's good for a couple of reasons. First, the position is pretty well stacked this season and general manager Jerry Angelo addressed just that at the combine saying as many as five linebackers could be selected in the first round.

"[You] won't see as good a group as this linebacker cast, as many as five and really quality,'' he said. "The linebackers should be real strong due to the fact that I thought potentially four could have come out last year and were thinking about it and they all four stayed in.''

INDIANAPOLIS--Maybe the price for John St. Clair just went up.

The draft prospects were overshadowed on Day 1 of the scouting combine with blockbuster deals done around the league Thursday, and another biggie got knocked out Friday.

The Miami Dolphins didn't place the franchise tag on right tackle Vernon Carey and they didn't need to as they struck a deal on a six-year contract to keep him in place. Carey's deal is worth $42 million. He was considered by many to be the best available tackle moving toward the open market after Jordan Gross was locked down by Carolina on Thursday.

Carey's signing removes another name from a shrinking list of tackles the Bears can consider, and they've got to do something. With John Tait set to retire, Chris Williams, the untested first-round pick from 2008, and Cody Balogh, who spent the entire season on the practice squad, are the only offensive tackles under contract. As it stands now, that means a lot of extra work for long snapper Pat Mannelly when the veteran minicamp opens March 17 at Halas Hall.

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This will not come as a surprise.

The Bears announced on their Web site that they would like to have John Tait back for another season.

Tait informed the team he is was likely to retire and multiple sources have told the Sun-Times it's a done deal but nothing will be official until he files retirement papers.

"John informed us a few weeks ago that he was considering retirement," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "He has been a great player and representative of our team since joining us in 2004. We would like to have him back for another season, but certainly respect his decision if he chooses to retire."

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A project that could have potentially been put off one more year is expected to be at the forefront for the Bears demanding immediate attention.

Veteran right tackle John Tait is seriously considering retirement with one year remaining on his contract according to two sources, and a third source close to the team called it a done deal although no official word came Friday when the club announced its first cuts, releasing three players including veteran wide receiver Marty Booker.

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