Bears GM Phil Emery said at the outset of this offseason that he was thwarted in some aggressive intentions last offseason to acquire a starting tackle in free agency. He was determined not to let that happen a second year in a row,
It didn’t. Emery followed the addition of New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett in the early minutes of free agency with a blockbuster, reaching a multi-year deal worth $36 million with Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod from the New Orleans Saints.
Bushrod was a fourth-round pick of the Saints in the 2007 draft. With New Orleans he was coached by Aaron Kromer, now the Bears’ offensive coordinator, and was voted to two Pro Bowls.
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It is not the first time the Bears have made a move for power with a big strike in free agency. An anchor for the 2006 Super Bowl team was put in place with the signing of tackle John Tait to an offer sheet. The Kansas City Chiefs did not match the package, which was their option since Tait had been given a transition tag by the Chiefs.
The move for Bushrod was no less aggressive. The pool of elite offensive linemen is never deep and it shrank rapidly early Tuesday afternoon. The Minnesota Vikings re-signed right tackle Phil Loadholt and the top two guards on the market were off the market quickly, with Louis Vasquez going from San Diego to Denver and Andy Levitre leaving Buffalo for Tennessee.
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With Bushrod at left tackle, the Bears ostensibly have established a solid depth core at the edges of their line. J’Marcus Webb, with two years experience at left tackle, is expected to move back to right tackle while 2011 No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi sets up as backup who allows Webb to go to left tackle in an emergency.
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Carimi flopped badly last season but Webb went from terrible as a rookie in 2010 to bad in 2011 and then to break-even last year, based on evaluations by Pro Football Focus. The Bears are likely to add more on the offensive line in the draft but the urgency was dialed down substantially with the Bushrod signing and Webb improvement.