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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Bears to make signing Pace a top priority

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears have reportedly made signing free agent tackle Orlando Pace a priority.

Orlando PaceIf Pace signs, the Bears probably would start him at left tackle and shift Chris Williams to the right side. Pace was selected to seven Pro Bowls at left tackle and is destined to be a Hall of Famer. He likely would have been the Rams’ starting left tackle for the 2009 season had they not opted to save $6 million in cap space.

Williams is versatile enough to play either tackle spot, which is why the Bears would be willing to move him to the right side.

The Bears have already signed veteran Kevin Shaffer, and he could compete to start at right tackle regardless. Adding the 33-year-old Pace would push newly acquired Frank Omiyale back into the mix at guard.

Although age and injuries are a concern, signing Pace makes a lot of sense for the Bears, who have been trying to rebuild their offensive line since last year’s draft. I was shocked when I read that the team was counting on the undersized Omiyale to play right tackle next season. He’s a better fit at guard and really only makes sense at tackle in a zone-blocking running scheme, which the Bears don’t run. Signing Pace would allow Chicago to move Omiyale inside and although it wouldn’t be the most feared O-line in the league, it would be an upgraded unit.

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