Formal Introduction

While everything that needed to be said came when the Chiefs didn't match the Bears offer for John Tait on Friday, Chicago showed off their newest acquisition during a press conference at Halas Hall Monday.

When your getting paid more $33.5 million to play football over the next six years it's easy to smile. Tait made a point of saying thanks to the Chiefs organization, but admitted he's quickly getting accustomed to being a Bear.

"I'll miss those guys, but it's time to start a new chapter in my life and start fresh with a new team," Tait said. "I'm very excited about being here with the Chicago Bears. Great fans, great town, a team with a great new head coach who has a vision that I see right in line with him as far as helping this team to reach the Super Bowl."

After a brief flirtation with trying to sign Jevon Kearse, GM Jerry Angelo put all available resources into improving the offense through free agency. It started on nearly two weeks ago with the addition of RB Thomas Jones and backup QB Jonathan Quinn.

All along Angelo knew the offensive line needed an upgrade at tackle. When the premier left tackles were all given the franchise tag by their perspective clubs that's when the Bears targeted Tait.

Waiting a week to find out if the Chiefs would match the Bears offer for Tait was a risk, one that could have blown up in Angelo's face. But in the end Chicago got their man and have a solid addition to the offensive line.

"He's been a player in the league for a while, but we still think his best years are ahead of him also, so we couldn't be more excited," said Coach Lovie Smith. "He was a guy that we really targeted, that we felt like we really needed to get to help us get to that next step and we've gotten that with John."

The 6-6, 323-pound Tait has started 66 of 75 career games played during the regular season including 50 consecutive. He should also prove useful with three years experience in the offense the Bears plan to run.

Tait is coming from an offensive line that has not missed a start since 2001. Center Olin Kreutz will be the only opening day starter on the offensive line at the same position this year. Mike Gandy is likely to move from left tackle to right guard replacing Chris Villarrial. Rex Tucker, who missed the entire 2003 campaign, is expected to be the left guard. Qasim Mitchell is the projected left tackle with Tait joining him on the right side. Building continuity on the line will be critical to the success of the offense Terry Shea plans to run.

"On each team the offensive line is kind of like a team within a team and in my opinion, is kind of like the core strength of whatever team that they're on," Tait said. "If you have a good offensive line, chances are you're going to have a strong team. It's really important getting together with the guys and getting a starting five solidified so we can work together. That's important if we can do that as quickly as possible."

The group will have a chance to work together next week. The Bears will hold mini-camp March 26-28.

Although Tait has experience at both tackle spots, he's expected to anchor the right side of the offensive line. If Mitchell struggles moving into a starting role then Tait slide over.

WHAT'S NEXT
The Bears have a have a little over $3 million in cap space. Angelo admitted there is a chance that the Bears could use that money to pursue Ephraim Salaam, but added he would not sign a player just to fill a need. The individual has to be a good fit in the overall scheme of things.

"It's not like we've got a twenty that's burning a hole in our pocket," Angelo said. "We're going to spend when we feel the right player (is available) and we're going to get better as a football team. We do have some room and if that right person is there then we'll pursue it."

Todd Steussie appears to be headed to Tampa. The veteran tackle reportedly signed a six-year $20 million deal with the Bucs. Angelo said the chances of two other former Bucs, in John Lynch and Warren Sapp is unlikely.

"They were special players and still are special players," Angelo said. "I don't feel given the marketplace that we're going to be in a situation to do something with either one of them."


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