Jones Out of the Picture

The Bears are desperate to find an answer at left tackle and one possible solution is off the market. Walter Jones inked a seven-year deal for $50 million to stay in Seattle.

Jones had been franchised tagged by the Seahawks for the past three years, but with QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander both due to hit free agency the team moved to get a long term deal done with the four-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

Jones, who also received a signing bonus in excess of $15 million, has missed the past three training camps but was selected to the Pro Bowl each season. Last year was probably his best: He didn't allow a sack in 16 regular-season games.

Giving Jones a seven-year deal at 31 is a risk, but considering the Rams are expected to franchise tag Orlando Pace, he would have been the best tackle available.

Even if Jones reached the market, it would have been unlikely that the Bears would have been willing to give him the largest contract in franchise history. John Tait received a six-year $33 million contract last off-season and to add another $50 million to complete the tackle tandem would have eventually led to salary cap problems.

GM Jerry Angelo has said he doesn't view free agency as the way to build a roster, but he could still look to the market to upgrade an offensive line that surrendered a franchise record 66 sacks.

Tra Thomas is the biggest name that is expected to be available. At 30, his better days may be behind him after playing the majority of his career on the brutal turf at Veterans Stadium for the Philadelphia Eagles. Angelo explored trading for Thomas in the past and he still might believe the veteran can play.

If Tait and the Bears agree a move to left tackle would be best then the Colts Ryan Diem could be an option on the right side. He's started the past two seasons there and played his college ball at Northern Illinois.

Angelo could ask Tommie Harris about his cousin, Stockar McDougle, who will be a free agent if the Lions don't decide to lock him up in the next two weeks.

The lack of quality options could push the price up for mediocre players, which Angelo has always been hesitant of in the past. The Bears could turn their attention to going after the top wide receivers on the market and use the draft to find their answer at left tackle. However, relying on a rookie to protect the quarterback's blindside could be a recipe for disaster.


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