Emery's options at No. 20 now look different

Emery's options at No. 20 now look different
March 29, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Now Phil Emery's really done it.

If you thought at the start of free agency that there was no question the Bears general manager absolutely had to draft an offensive lineman with the 20th overall pick, Friday's signing of offensive guard Matt Slauson almost seemed to guarantee he won't--if he keeps the pick at all. With no third-rounder, he could very well trade down for an extra selection.

And it almost seems that by signing a new left side of the line with the Jermon Bushrod and Slauson pickups--the latter played left guard exclusively the last couple of years with the Jets, but is said to be versatile enough to move to the right side--he sensed there might not be any of the quality linemen left by the time the Bears' pick comes around.

If Alabama's Chance Warmack or North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper happens to slip that far, Emery would probably jump at it, but the depth at that position and at center this year opens the possibility of addressing it later. Roberto Garza can always go back to right guard if Emery sees a center he likes. Gabe Carimi would have to prove capable of growing into that position if he can't beat out J'Marcus Webb or Jonathan Scott on the right edge.

[RELATED: Bears add another starter in Slauson]

What the Slauson signing does is strengthen the possibility of drafting defense in the first round for the second straight year. Emery knows the linebacker corps remains awfully thin despite last week's signings of D.J. Williams and James Anderson to one-year deals. If a quality edge rusher happens to drop, would he jump there, knowing that Julius Peppers will be 33 years old this season? Corey Wootton improved, but can he maintain or build from his 2012 numbers to become a legitimate starter? Is Shea McClellin cemented into that position, or is the door to switch him to linebacker left open more than Emery's admitting?

Henry Melton appears to be a long-term priority, but right now he's signed only--and expensively--for 2013. Is Stephen Paea the long-term, every-down answer at the other defensive tackle spot?

While it'd be difficult to see him addressing safety following the improvement (and playing time investment) in Major Wright and Chris Conte to go with Zbikowski, Steltz, and Hardin, cornerback is another story. Who would have thought that with both starters Pro Bowlers last season? But 32-year-old Charles Tillman has 10 years of wear and tear on his body going into a contract year, and one has to wonder if Tim Jennings can be just as effective in the second and final year of his contract as he was under the first year of that deal?

[RELATED: Bears dealing with cap pressure]

Even if the Bears wind up drafting on the offensive side, I'd say at this point the more likely route now could be a wide receiver or Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, if he's still around. That would really give Marc Trestman some twists for opposing defenses to think about.

Finally, with the re-signing of Josh McCown to a one-year deal, you can almost smell the arrival of a young signal-caller via the middle rounds for Trestman to mold coming straight into the league, in the event Jay Cutler can't blossom the way he should under the so-called "Quarterback Whisperer" in the most critical season of his career.