Bears sign Pace to protect Cutler

Shortly after sending multiple draft picks and quarterback Kyle Orton to the Broncos to acquire Jay Cutler, the Bears signed former Rams’ left tackle Orlando Pace to help protect their new signal caller.

Pace will sign a two- or three-year contract and will be inserted as the starting left tackle meaning that 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams will have to stave off newly signed veteran Kevin Shaffer to claim a starting job at right tackle. Pace, 33, missed 25 games over the last three seasons but started 14 last season and cleared a physical when he visited the team on Monday. Agent Kennard McGuire praised the visit and it led to quick negotiations.

Pace is considered a better pass blocker, and that will allow the Bears to perhaps get a better run blocker in Williams or Shaffer on the right side. A lot of teams are right-handed when it comes to running the football. The depth chart looks much different than it did when minicamp ended two weeks ago and free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, originally signed to play left guard, was running at right tackle with Williams on the left side. There were no backups in place.

This is a great signing for a couple of reasons. One, if Pace can stay healthy he offers an immediate upgrade at the left tackle position for the Bears. Although aging, Pace still has enough left in the tank to give Chicago one or two quality seasons until they can secure a more long-term answer. The Pace signing also allows the youngster Chris Williams to move to right tackle, which might be a better position for him because he doesn’t have to worry about protecting the quarterback’s blind side. Lastly, Omiyale isn’t a tackle. I don’t know why the Bears signed him to be a tackle, but at his size and quickness he’s more suitable for guard. With Pace now on board, Omiyale can shift down to guard and now as a unit, Chicago’s offensive line has been completely upgraded. (It’s not spectacular by any means, but they’re in better shape now than they were at this point last season.)

You have to give the Bears a ton of credit. They played possum all offseason, waited for their time to strike and then stole Cutler and Pace away from other teams. I know fans are probably waiting for their next signing to be Torry Holt, although he seems destined to land in Tennessee. Then again, I wouldn’t count the Bears out of anything right now.

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