Wishful Thinking

Lake Forest - The Bears made a small investment in Qasim Mitchell when they gave him a three-year contract extension that included a $1.5 million bonus. At worst, the salary cap hit would be minimal if the experiment at left tackle doesn't work and he needs to be cut. On the other hand, the six-foot-6, 355-pound Mitchell could develop into a cheap solution at the most expensive position on the offensive line.

The Bears picked up Mitchell off the scrap heap. He originally signed with the Cleveland Browns as undrafted free agent out of North Carolina A&T and spent his first season in the league on Injured Reserve because of a lung injury. After being waived by the Browns early last season the Bears signed him to their practice squad. He was elevated to the 53-man roster in Week 11 and started two games at left tackle before suffering a fractured fibula in Game 15.

With Marc Colombo's future in doubt the Bears tried to address left tackle situation in the off-season.

Although John Tait was given left tackle money when he signed a six-year $33 million deal, the coaching staff decided he was better suited to play on the right side.

The Bears can't afford to pay a left tackle big money, so Mitchell could be a bargain as he's due a base salary of $380000, $650000, $750000 and $850000 over the next four seasons.

The question is can he play?

Mitchell has started 10 of Chicago's last 11 games at left tackle and is one of three Bears offensive linemen to start all eight games this season. He was penalized twice Sunday against the Giants, once for holding and once for a false start. On a weekly basis it seems he's flagged or putting the quarterback in harms way by getting beat off the edge.

If that trend continues, Colombo will be given a chance before the end of the year. However, that doesn't mean Mitchell was a bust.

Since Jerry Angelo became the GM in 2001 he has given extensions to players before it was deemed necessary.

Neither Jerry Azumah nor Mike Green were thought to be coveted on the free agent market when they received new deals, but each has developed into playmakers on the defense for a reasonable price.

Angelo has always believed in rewarding players that have developed within the organization. It has been met with mixed results.

Alfonso Boone was given an extension in the style of Azumah and Green, but hasn't had the same impact on the field. Still, he's not absorbing much of the cap and is a reasonably priced backup.

In 2002 Angelo matched a four-year deal worth $12 million for Warrick Holdman, which meant Rosevelt Colvin wasn't re-signed because of the money that needed to be set-aside for Brian Urlacher.

The same off-season Olin Kreutz was given a $25 million deal. The three-time Pro Bowl center is arguably the best player at his position, but giving that kind of coin to a center could eventually backfire on the Bears cap situation.

The jury is still out on Mitchell and the remainder of the season will give the coaching staff a body of work to make a judgment on his ability.

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