Brown brings skill and experience

Ruben Brown agreed to a three-year deal worth $4.5 million. The fourth starter GM Jerry Angelo has added this off-season also becomes the oldest member of the team at 32 and in his mind still has plenty left in the tank.

The deal will pay Ruben Brown a $1 million signing bonus and a $500,000 roster bonus. With incentives he can earn another $1 million over the final two years of the contract.

"It could be eternity, I could play until the league is over," Brown joked. "Hopefully it's until the Chicago Bears win a Super Bowl."

Brown could be the Bears best value addition in free agency. It wasn't a move GM Jerry Angelo anticipated making, but it worked out for both sides.

"As free agency evolved situations change for players and for teams and we were able to initiate contact with him and it seemed like it would be potentially a good fit," Angelo said. "We're real happy with that acquisition. We just feel like we added another good player to an area that we wanted to address in the off-season and that was our offensive line."

Brown brings something to Chicago that even the Bears biggest free agent acquisition couldn't, eight Pro Bowl appearances. The only other member the offensive line to play in Hawaii is center Olin Kreutz.

In fact being voted to the Pro Bowl eight times is a rare feat. The only two Bears that have been voted to more Pro Bowls are Mike Singletary (10) and Walter Payton (9). Jay Hilgenberg has the most of any Bear offensive lineman with seven Pro Bowl appearances from 1985-91.

The offensive line has been revamped this off-season. The addition of John Tait gave the Bears a Pro Bowl caliber tackle, all be it at on the right side. Brown, who has played the majority of his career at left guard, will now join Tait on the right side of the line.

"I know how to brush my teeth with both hands, so it's just switching stances," Brown said. "I've done it before I've played right guard quite a few times in the Pro Bowl."

In nine seasons Brown has 136 starts and has missed just eight games, the last of which very well could have caused his exit from the team that selected him in the first-round of the 1995 draft. Brown and former Buffalo Bills head coach Gregg Williams has a poor relationship at best. Following a disagreement between the two Brown was benched for the season finale.

"It was a mutual split with myself and the Bills and I think everyone else in the NFL knows that," Brown said.

The fact the Bills saved $1.8 million on the cap by releasing Brown made the decision that much easier for the organization. In essence Chicago and Buffalo traded guards as the Bills signed Chris Villarrial last month.

The addition of Brown not only improves the depth and experience of the offensive line, but it keeps a divisional rival from obtaining his services. The Detroit Lions were thought to be the Bears biggest competitor for Brown. He said that Lovie Smith "blew him away" during their meeting last week and that played a major role in him coming to Chicago. He also called the Bears a team with a lot of potential that's on an upswing.

"The way the league is now you never know whose going to be that team that is going to make that run," Brown said. "I think with the coaching staff that is here, personnel there's a good a chance here as any other place. Especially with Lovie Smith and his attitude I think things could get contagious around here."

The biggest impact of the signing could be on Mike Gandy, who had been pencilled in to play right guard, but now will have to play out of position for another season. It appears the Bears will not add any other starters in free agency, so Gandy, a natural guard, will compete with Qasim Mitchell at left tackle.

"That's the hand we're dealt and we are satisfied with that," Angelo said.


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