Bears GM Phil Emery made it a priority to upgrade the offensive line this offseason, a unit that has finished in the bottom third in the NFL in sacks allowed in each of the past three years. His first move was to add two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod on the first day of free agency. With Slauson, the Bears now have a fresh new talent pool from which they can build the new-look offensive line.
Here are the offensive linemen currently on Chicago's roster (in alphabetical order):
The addition of Slauson does not preclude the Bears from selecting an offensive lineman early in this year's draft. In fact, I still fully expect the team to do just that. But as of now, these are the piece we have to work with.
Let's lay out the likeliest scenario. First off, you can mark in pen Bushrod as the starting left tackle and Garza as the starting center. Due to his substantial experience at the position, Slauson will surely be slotted at left guard.
The remaining two starting positions, right guard and right tackle, are up for grabs. Emery said after signing Bushrod that Webb, the club's left tackle starter the last two years, will compete at right tackle with Carimi. Emery also said Carimi will get a shot at playing guard. Also in play at right tackle is Scott, whom the team signed this week.
At right guard, the cupboard is still relatively bare. Carimi is the only player on the roster with any starting experience at the position, and that was just three starts due to injury last season. Williams and Brown both have starting experience, but at left guard. Riley and Dennis are nothing more than camp bodies so, unless the Bears draft an early round interior offensive lineman, Carimi is the frontrunner at RG.
Odds are high that the right tackle competition will ultimately come down to a battle between Scott and Webb. Scott was an improvement over Carimi at RT in 2012, yet that isn't saying much. According to Pro Football Focus, had Scott played a full season, he would have allowed the most QB pressures in the league amongst offensive tackles last year. Webb, on the other hand, improved measurably in the second half of 2012 and didn't give up a sack from Week 8 on. He also has a year's experience playing right tackle, where he started as a rookie.
If I had to place bets right now on who wins that competition, my money is on Webb. So, with the roster as it currently stands, here is the likeliest opening day front five for the 2013 Chicago Bears:
LT Jermon Bushrod
LG Matt Slauson
C Roberto Garza
RG Gabe Carimi
RT J'Marcus Webb
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.