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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.

Deep into the second wave of free agency, the old and sometimes broken down offensive tackles on the open market are starting to get some action.

On the heels of John St. Clair's signing Tuesday in Cleveland where he received a $600,000 signing bonus as part of a $9 million, three-year contract, there is some movement. Former St. Louis Rams all-pro Orlando Pace will visit with the Baltimore Ravens today. On the other coast, Marvel Smith, who represented the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Pro Bowl, will visit the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bears, meanwhile, will line up Cody Balogh at right tackle this afternoon in minicamp practice No. 2 unless the Frank Omiyale-to-left-guard plan is a thing of the past after one day. Take a deep breath for a moment. The regular season does not begin for six months. As we wrote the other day, Lovie Smith could race over to Lake Forest College and grab a lineman to put at right tackle for three days in a non-contact minicamp. The Bears have options and while none of them scream Keith Van Horne or Big Cat Williams, not now any way, let's be honest here. Re-signing St. Clair and lining him up at right tackle wasn't a longterm solution. The Bears are working to get younger (and maybe bigger) on the line. Re-signing St. Clair probably would not have altered or delayed a goal to draft a tackle next month. The Bears valued St. Clair as a backup and that was reflected in the offer they made him.

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Hakeem Nicks isn't the only highly touted prospect the Bears are going to investigate next week.

Ed Thompson
of Scout.com reported that the Bears will put Oklahoma offensive tackle Phil Loadholt through a private workout, and we've confirmed that will take place next week. Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is a good bet to attend. Southwest scout Chris Ballard was at Oklahoma's pro day last week and the Bears were known to have interest in the 6-8, 332-pounder coming out of the Senior Bowl. He played left tackle for two seasons for the Sooners but projects as a right tackle in the NFL.

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Oklahoma offensive tackle Phil Loadholt worked out Tuesday at the Sooners pro day in Norman, Okla., and it is believed the Bears' Southwest scout Chris Ballard was on hand.

That's no surprise. The OU pro day is one of the big draws every year. Minnesota coach Brad Childress was on hand. Loadholt, who worked out at the scouting combine last month, put up 26 reps on the bench at 225 pounds. He checked in again at 6-7, 332 pounds, which is what he measured in Indianapolis. He substantially improved his broad jump to 8 feet, 9 inches, 10 inches better than his effort at the combine.

INDIANAPOLIS--Two of the biggest names that could have reached the free market have been crossed off the list.

As expected, Carolina reached terms on a contract with left tackle Jordan Gross. He'll get $30.5 million over the first three years of a six-year contract.

Let's interrupt for a second to ask the question: What recession? Nnamdi Asomugha will receive $45.3 million in a three-year contract. Oakland made the move preventing the All-Pro cornerback from having to be paid. Speaking of pay, Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden landed a $43 million, five-year contract with $22 million guaranteed.

There is nothing quite like a 25th anniversary and the 2009 draft marks the 25th year Mel Kiper Jr. will be associated with ESPN's coverage of the NFL Draft.

Kiper has the Bears selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson in his latest mock draft, which has been up for a few weeks, and he took time out this morning in a conference call to talk about a realm of different possibilities.

"Wide receiver, offensive line and obviously the quarterback situation has to be cleared up there moving forward," Kiper said when asked what the Bears could potentially target at No. 18 in the first round. "But certainly wide receiver would be the one you have to look at, maybe Percy Harvin if he was there would be someone they have to consider. I just think their defense, which did not get it done in a lot of games, has to be looked at. Tyson Jackson from LSU, a defensive end, would seem to fit kind of the mold of the versatile defensive end they like. I would say Tyson Jackson if not maybe Percy Harvin.''

We outlined a few reasons why Harvin might not be a good match for the Bears in that slot last week. Harvin's cut from the Devin Hester mold and like Hester he played other positions in school. He also comes with some injury baggage, not the kind of thing general manager Jerry Angelo will likely be willing to consider at this pick.

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