Gabe Carimi was a solid pick. Throughout the Chicago Bears community hardly a word of dissent has been registered regarding his selection as the 29th overall pick. He may not be able to play left tackle at the next level but at the very least, he should provide road-grater-type production on the right side. His run-blocking prowess will help a rushing attack that ranked 22nd, 29th, 24th and 30th the last four seasons.
Some feel Derek Sherrod, taken by Green Bay two picks later, would have been a better fit as he's more suited to play left tackle and thus protect Jay Cutler's blind side. While that may be true, an improved rushing attack would also take pressure of Cutler and would help curb coordinator Mike Martz's pass-happy tendencies.
Yet beyond Carimi, all the same pieces are still in place. Olin Kreutz is likely to be re-signed but is in the twilight of his career. J'Marcuss Webb was wildly inconsistent his rookie season. Chris Williams is looking more like a bust every year. Frank Omiyale is nothing more than a turnstile and Roberto Garza has been consistently mediocre.
Obviously, more work needs to be done in free agency to upgrade a unit that gave up the most sacks in the NFL last season (56). There are plenty of veterans on the market right now, many of which would provide immediate upgrades. The Bears have some money to spend and could make a big-name splash, a la Julius Peppers last season. Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock or Carl Nicks, to name just a few, would make outstanding additions.
The Bears could take a different route and spend those free-agent dollars on a position like wide receiver, linebacker or cornerback, where there are obvious needs as well. Chicago could then try and grab one of the many talented offensive-line prospects whose names were not called on draft day.
Undrafted free agents (UFAs) come at a far discounted rate than their veteran counterparts. The Bears could sign a handful of these players and see if one emerges as a starter, or at least a quality backup, coming out of training camp.
Chicago should be targeting the following UFAs once the free agent signing period begins:
T David Mims, Virginia (6-8, 331)
The sky is the ceiling for Mims, who has the ideal size, strength and athleticism to play tackle in the NFL. It will take him some time to develop but if the Bears are patient, they could have a right-side starter in just a few years.
G Zach Hurd
T Willie Smith, East Carolina (6-5, 310)
A buzz was swirling around Smith heading into the draft but in the end, most teams were scared off by his inexperience as an offensive lineman. He's about as raw as they come but he's very athletic and showed well at the Scouting Combine. A year refining his fundamentals would do him wonders and could help turn him into a starter down the line.
G Zach Hurd, Connecticut (6-6, 316)
Many analysts considered Hurd a mid-round pick heading into the draft. He's a powerful drive blocker who excels in the run game. He's a liability though in pass protection, which is likely the reason he went undrafted. The potential is there, as is the size, but only if Mike Tice can coax it out of him.
G Garrett Chisolm, South Carolina (6-5, 312)
Having only one year of starting experience, Chisolm is extremely raw. There are also durability concerns. He needs to bulk up his lower body and work on his footwork as well. He's a high-character prospect though who is a powerful blocker and would provide good interior-line depth.
G Ricky Henry, Nebraska (6-3, 308)
An aggressive, physical run blocker with good lower-body strength, Henry is a tough-nosed player who shows a mean streak. Athletically though, he is well-below average and would need a few years development before he could handle NFL defensive linemen.
C Kristofer O'Dowd, USC (6-4, 304)
O'Dowd is skilled enough to play in the NFL but his vast injury history left him undrafted. He's a medical risk but he has the intelligence and experience to play center in the NFL. A few years learning under Kreutz would do him wonders.
C Alex Linnenkohl, Oregon State (6-2, 304)
One of the hardest working collegiate offensive linemen, Linnenkohl is an intelligent player that demonstrates great awareness in pass protection. He is limited athletically but could develop into a decent backup.
C Tim Barnes, Missouri (6-4, 300)
Barnes is a tough, smart player who was a three-year starter for Missouri. He doesn't have the upper-body strength to move interior defenders in the run game but he shows good instincts in pass protection. There's enough potential for him to be a starter down the line.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider