Stay or Go

Mike Gandy, a restricted free agent, could be a contributor at a different position in 2004.

Gandy started 14 games in 2003 all at left tackle. He didn't distinguish himself one way or the other in terms of being the man to protect the quarterback's backside.

Until the middle of last year Gandy had been a guard and that's the position that he should return to with the Bears next season.

With the chances of the Bears retaining Chris Villarrial, who is an unrestricted free agent, Gandy would be a cheaper option at right guard where he's better suited to play.

The Bears will address left tackle either through the draft or free agency.

Orlando Pace and Walter Jones are both unrestricted free agents, but will both probably be franchised tagged by their respective clubs making forcing any team to give up two first-round choices for signing the player.

There are two top of the line prospects at left tackle in this year's draft. Arkansas' Shawn Andrews and Iowa's Robert Gallery, both of which will likely go in the top-ten picks. Other possibilities include Vernon Carey of Miami and Georgia Tech's Nat Dorsey.

If the Bears can find a left tackle then the rest of the line would fall into place.

With LG Rex Tucker and RT Marc Colombo due back from injury they would join C Olin Kreutz, Gandy and an improved left tackle.

If Colombo or Tucker aren't ready for whatever reason then Aaron Gibson and Steve Edwards, who both started in all 16 games at right tackle and left guard respectively, will be ready to challenge for a repeat role. Either could also challenge Gandy along with Terrence Metcalf at right guard.

Restricted Free Agent Definition: A player with three but less than four accrued seasons (four but less than five in an uncapped year) can seek offers from other clubs after his contract expires, but he has only 60 days to do so (from around March 1 to mid-April). If he gets an offer, his old club must choose between matching it and retaining him, or letting him go to the new club in return for draft choice compensation. The draft choice compensation varies depending upon the offer the old club gives the player prior to becoming a restricted free agent.

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