Risky Proposition

The signing of Ruben Brown is a nice move, but it still doesn't address the Bears biggest need on the offensive line. While the move will shift Mike Gandy into the competition for the left tackle spot, the team is gambling that his play will improve or that Qasim Mitchell is ready to protect Rex Grossman's blind side.

There's no denying that GM Jerry Angelo has improved a unit that allowed 43 sacks last season. John Tait is his biggest acquisition this off-season and despite what critics might say the team didn't overpay for a right tackle at 6 years for $33.5 million.

Angelo put himself in a position to be a major player in free agency this off-season but the premier left tackles never truly hit the open market. They were franchised tagged by their perspective clubs leaving Tait as the biggest name available. Needing to add Tait, Angelo was ultra-aggressive and put up $14 million in the first year of the contract. While that is a ton of cash for any player, Tait will count about $4 million against for the remainder of the deal.

Despite playing left tackle for two seasons Lovie Smith does not plan on using Tait at the most important position on the line.

"John, we think he can be an All-Pro at right tackle," Smith said. "Left tackle, he may be OK right now. We recruited John — and I do say recruit — and we signed John to play right tackle for us. We think we're going to do an awful lot on that right side and we want him there."

Meaning Mitchell and Gandy are the top options to play left tackle. Gandy started 14 games at left tackle last season and 20 of his 25 career starts have come at the position. Mitchell got the nod twice before sustaining a broken fibula.

Even with the experience edge, Gandy already seems behind in the competition. He is a natural guard and Mitchell has been receiving the bulk of the compliments from his new head coach.

"If 'Q' gets there, we'll feel real comfortable with him," Smith said.

Mitchell played left tackle with the first team during the recent mini-camp. Brown had not been signed at that point and Gandy worked at right guard.

The dark horse at left tackle could be Marc Colombo. The 2002 first-round pick has been rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in his rookie campaign. While the team can't count on Colombo to be ready, he is showing progress.

In mini-camp, Colombo not only participated in some running drills with the team, but also worked on the side moving a blocking sled. He did not show the ability to do either of those tasks last year.

"I feel Marc is going to be back and going again," Angelo said. "He looks good, he's making progress. We went into free agency as if he was not going to be with us, but in my mind I feel Marc is going to be ready and we're going to him back as well."

Still Angelo must consider using a first day selection on a left tackle to develop and Smith is poised to lobby for what he believes the team needs.

``I could get on the table and I will get on the table for quite a few positions," Smith said. "We're still in the initial stage and we're looking at a lot of different positions. We like the players we have. I think we have a good player at all the positions. Once you can get a player that can improve the team--and I don't know exactly what position that will be--I can't say one position is a lot weaker than others right now. I think each day it gets a little bit clearer and it is getting clearer for us right now."

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