The makeover of the offensive line, indeed, the Bears’ starting lineups, by GM Phil Emery, which already this offseason has included upgrades at left tackle and right tackle, extended to guard on Friday with the signing of former New York Jet Matt Slauson.
The Bears now have signed five projected position starters this offseason: Slauson, tackle Jermon Bushrod, tight end Martellus Bennett and linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams. Add to that, safety Tom Zbikowski on special teams. In the process, Emery has kept the Bears on a course of being able to select the best player available in the draft next month, and with added options for trading down because of filling major lineup needs through free agency.
The signing of Slauson follows adding Bushrod at left tackle, shifting J’Marcus Webb to right tackle and re-signing Jonathan Scott to challenge Webb. Slauson, 6-5, 315 pounds, has started 48 of the last 51 games he has played in since being drafted by the Jets in the 6th round (193rd overall) out of Nebraska in 2009, the draft in which the Bears selected Lance Louis, who signed with Miami this week, in the seventh round.
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With Bushrod (48), Slauson and Scott (35), the Bears have brought in a total of 145 NFL starts on their offensive line. Slauson is expected to be considered for either right or left guard, leaving former undrafted free agent James Brown and former No. 1 Gabe Carimi and possibly Edwin Williams competing for one of the guard spots as the only true job opening.
[DESTINATION DRAFT: Can Bears find more O-line help in the draft?]
Slauson, 27, agreed to a one-year deal. He was among the top-rated available guards by ProFootballFocus.com and, like Bushrod, graded higher than any Bears offensive lineman for 2012.
He did not allow a sack in 2012 and has helped the Jets rush for no fewer than 1,600 yards since becoming a full-time starter (1,896 in 2012; 1,692 in 2011; 2,374 in 2010).
Along with not re-signing Chris Spencer, losing Louis had left the Bears thin at guard. But as he did with the signings of Bushrod, tight end Martellus Bennett and linebackers James Anderson and D.J. Williams, and now Slauson, Emery has dialed down the degree of “need” going into the draft four weeks away.