Without a doubt, the weakest position group on the team last year was the offensive line. Not surprisingly, the Bears used their 1st round pick and grabbed Gabe Carimi to address this glaring need. But did they do enough? Considering the viscous beating Cutler took last year, can one 1st round tackle (who is speculated to be starting on the right side, not the left) be enough to solidify the Matadors of the Midway? Or will the bears make a big splash again in FA and nab up a top offensive linemen?
Follow me to the clearing at the end of the jump and we'll discuss these thoughts and more........see you there!
Let's take a quick look at the current situation as it stands. Olin Kreutz is aging before our eyes and happens to be a free agent. I don't expect him to retire anywhere but Chicago, but you never know. Roberto Garza ain't no spring chicken, either. Chris Williams has shown flashes of brilliance at both tackle and guard, and appeared to settle in at the LG spot as 2010 wore on. Frank Omiyale should probably be given more credit than he gets. He did more last year than any career backup is expected to. And J'Marcus Webb may have a very bright future as he develops, but lets face it, anywhere but in Chicago, and he wouldn't be in a position to start yet. There are some good prospects in the fold like Levi Horn, Lance Louis, Edwin Williams and Herman Edwards, all of who could develop into solid starters or just as easily get cut this season. And of course, there is veteran backup Kevin Shaffer, who can be useful in a pinch, but shouldn't be considered in a starting conversation.
If the season started tomorrow, I would honestly expect the line to look like this: LT Webb, LG C. Williams, C Kreutz, RG Garza and RT Carimi. But we all know that eventually, free agency is going to come. THe question then becomes, are the Bears comfortable with this lineup.
My guess is yes.
Webb has enormous upside and came along nicely last year. He certainly didn't look like a veteran by any stretch of the imagination, but he improved greatly while showing athleticism that was exactly what you want out of a franchise left tackle.
Chris Williams showed improvement at the LG spot as the year wore on, and while he was by no means perfect, he did get better. My personal feeling on this is that Williams is a bust at LT, but if I was a betting man, I'd place money on Williams to have a long career as a left guard, if he's given the time to adapt to the spot.
Kreutz is what he is. He's in severe decline athletically, but his leadership and experience make up for it in some ways. And he will retire a Bear. With no replacement immediately evident, the Bears will resign Kreutz, retire him as a Bears and get at least one more serviceable year out of him. He won't be the strongest link in the line, but he with strengthen the men around him.
Garza has never been a great guard, but he has been a good guard in years past. He also appears to be running out of gas, though and how many more serviceable seasons he has to offer should be in question.
Carimi needs no further explanation. I expect him to solidify the right side for a decade. And with Garza and Carimi on the right side, I actually expect to be able to see Forte run right and actually get some yardage *before* defenders are able to get a hand on him, especially at the goal line.
That said, I don't think that means the Bears will entirely ignore the line in free agency. I just don't expect to see them make a big splash. Last year was something of an anomaly. Peppers would have made every team inthe league better, and Manu and Taylor were attempts to give the new OC some toys he was comfortable with in his system.
But there are a two players that I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Bears look at.
Guard would be the most likely position group that Angelo sets his sights on, and the two best are already tied up. Logan Mankins was already franchised and Carl Nicks was tendered with a first round tender. I don't see the Bears rushing out to grab up 30 year old Harvey Dahl, who is the best guard left. But I wouldn't be surprised to see them interested in the Falcons other mammoth guard, Justin Blalock. If the Bears are going to make a splash on the o-line, this is the guy I think they go after. He's 27 years old, 6'4" and 327 lbs and ferocious. He's the big bodied, agile type of guard that Mike Tice likes.
Marshal Yanda of Baltimore is another player I wouldn't be surprise to see the Bears target. He's adept at both RT and RG, and the Bears love their versatile linemen. Yanda would be a good security blanket. He would be a more than capable starter at either position. He would likely replace Garza, but could slid to the outside if there was trouble with a tackle and Garza would still be available to slide back into his old RG spot. Give the total of 1 year starting experience on the outside, this might carry more weight in Chicago than some would think. He's also only 26 years old. If the Bears do grab an offensive linemen with some standing in free agency, this would be the player I'd put highest odds on. He just offers the most overall security to the team.
I honestly wouldn't cross any available linemen completely off the board, but I'm not holding my breath for Lyle Sendlein or Doug Free, either. Those expecting to see the Bears grab a couple of high end linemen will likely be disappointed. More likely is the scenario that they grab a few undrafted free agents and maybe a guard in free agency, and then roll on with the current cast.
Now it's time for you to sound off, my friends. Do you think the Bears will make a big splash on the line? Do you expect them to move forward with what they have? Who do you think they may be targeting? The soap box is yours!