Bears tender contracts to Gandy and 3 others

The Bears expect Mike Gandy to be in their uniform next season. Chicago took the first step to secure his return by tendering the restricted free agent a qualifying offer, which guarantees the first of first refusal to the team or compensation.

This is the same process that Jerry Angelo failed to check the box two years ago, which led to the Bears overpaying for Warrick Holdman services and D'Wayne Bates eventually signing with Minnesota without compensation.

Along with Gandy the Bears also tendered a qualifying offer to restricted free agents DE Joe Tafoya. The team also tendered exclusive free agents T/G Steve Edwards and WR Ahmad Merritt.

Gandy started 14 games at left tackle for the Bears in 2003 and has started 25 of 27 games played since 2002. However there is some doubt whether the 20001 third-round pick will move back to his natural position of guard next year. It really all depends on what the team can do in the off-season to upgrade the left tackle spot. The 6-4, 325 pounder out of Notre Dame was a gameday inactive for each contest in 2001, then started 11 of 13 games played in 2002, playing at both left guard and left tackle.

Tafoya, a reserve defensive end, has excelled on special teams and ranked second on the team in special teams tackles with a career-high 14 in 2003. He has appeared in 35 games since 2001 with one start (2002 vs. Tampa Bay) and has recorded 19 tackles and half a sack while registering 28 special teams stops.

Edwards started all 16 games at left guard for the Bears in 2003. The 6-5, 340 pounder played in one contest for the Bears in 2002 after the Bears signed him off the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. Edwards was originally signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2002.

Merritt tied for third on the Bears with 13 special teams tackles in 2003 while leading the coverage teams with three forced fumbles. The 5-10, 195 pounder began the 2003 season as the Bears featured returner on kickoffs, averaging 20.3 yards per return on 20 returns. He also had three receptions for 50 yards.

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