Inside Slant: Draft, Free Agency

Will the Bears draft offensive line in the first round? And which of their own players are they going to resign? The Sports Xchange offers its take on Chicago's draft and free agent strategies.

While the Bears' greatest area of need remains the offensive line, it's not written in stone that they'll take an O-lineman with their first-round pick (29th overall) on April 28. No one should be surprised if they target the defensive line with that first choice, especially after parting ways with defensive tackle Tommie Harris Feb. 28. Nose tackle Anthony Adams, a 16-game starter last year, is eligible for free agency, if and when it starts.

Since taking over as the Bears' draft-day decision-maker in 2002, general manager Jerry Angelo has used his top pick on a defensive lineman three times and drafted 14 of them in nine years.

Matt Toeaina played ahead of Harris most of last season, starting 10 games, but Harris reclaimed the starting job late in the season. Henry Melton, a fourth-round pick in 2009, is undersized at 6-3 and 260 pounds, and he was mostly a situational pass rusher last year.


DT Marcus Harrison
Scott Boehm/Getty

Marcus Harrison, a third-round pick in 2008, will have an opportunity to earn significant playing time at one or both of the tackle spots, but he has been a huge disappointment. The 6-3, 312-pounder was a game-day inactive 11 times last year and had a total of one tackle.

Because the current crop of draft-eligible defensive linemen is so talented and so deep, especially at end, it's possible that starting-caliber players could be available through the end of the second or third round.

Wide receiver is another area the Bears would like to upgrade. But Angelo has never used a first-round pick on a wideout.

Team Needs

1. Offensive line: Center Olin Kreutz will be 34 in June and right guard Roberto Garza will be 32 later this month. Left guard Chris Williams was supposed to be the left tackle of the future. J'Marcus Webb started 12 games as a rookie at right tackle. Left tackle Frank Omiyale showed improvement over the course of the season, but he may not be the long-term answer.

2. Defensive tackle: Nose tackle Anthony Adams is unrestricted, and 3-technique Tommie Harris was terminated after failing to live up to his $40 million extension in 2008. Marcus Harrison has been a career underachiever. Solid, blue-collar worker Matt Toeaina can play nose or 3-technique, where he started 10 games last season, but he might be just a placeholder.

3. Wide receiver: There is some big-play ability here, especially with Johnny Knox and Devin Hester and Earl Bennett is a solid and reliable possession guy. But there is a need for a big, physical player who can win jump balls.

Inside the War Room

Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget is the same type of quick, penetrating 3-technique tackle that Tommie Harris used to be, and if he's still on the board at 29 he'd be attractive. However, if one of the top offensive linemen -- Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, Boston College's Anthony Castonzo or Florida's Mike Pouncey -- fall to them, the Bears would be hard-pressed to pass.


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