Bears draft intentions will begin to publicly play out starting late Thursday and continue through Saturday. In the meantime, amid the usual NFL-wide chaff, a clearer picture of general manager Phil Emery’s strategy could be emerging.
The team has held individual workouts with a variety of draft prospects over the past few weeks and running through Tuesday when North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon went through a private session in Raleigh with the Bears, according to CBSSportsline.com’s Jason LaCanfora.
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The Bears’ one gaping hole in the starting lineup remains left guard, with a nod toward center Roberto Garza being in a contract year at age 34. Not surprisingly, they have worked out Syracuse’s Justin Pugh, Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick and Cal’s Brian Schwenke, first reported by ESPNChicago.
They also have had post-Combine meetings with Arthur Brown from Kansas State and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o.
The point is perhaps less the individual players than several overalls:
Few of the prospects are rated as locks at or before No. 20 in this draft. The soft conclusion is that the Bears are doing extensive work on talents that are ranked at slots reachable by trading down.
Only Te’o and Pugh have surfaced in more than occasional projections as first-round picks and even then not necessarily even at 20.
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Emery has a mission statement of acquiring a starter, preferably day one with his first- and even second-round picks. With the exceptions of Brown and Glennon, most of the visiting group would have to be considered top contenders for starting jobs in training camp.
Emery has aggressively upgraded the offensive line this offseason. But he is by no means necessarily done, given not having a starting guard opposite Matt Slauson (Gabe Carimi, James Brown), nor a set-it-and-forget-it right tackle (Jonathan Scott, J’Marcus Webb, both with contracts up after 2013).
The fact that the Bears decidedly non-aggressively sat out the musical-quarterbacks shuffle for backups reinforced the sense that Emery is less interested in a proven second-rater (Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Matt Flynn) than a young talent for his new coaching staff to develop.
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Linebacker has three starters in place but James Anderson and D.J. Williams are not guaranteed long-term solutions, and Lance Briggs is 32.
One constant found in Frederick, Pugh and Schwenke is versatility. Frederick was a center at Wisconsin but at 335 pounds, would be the biggest center in the NFL. But not the biggest guard, where he has been projected.
Pugh has been a left tackle but viewed as potentially an interior player, with his ability to pull. Schwenke was a starter at guard who moved to center in his senior season.
Te’o is a consensus middle linebacker but Brown has been projected at both outside linebacker spots.