Bears are Exploring all Options to Upgrade O-line

With Walter Jones re-singing with the Seahawks and Orlando Pace to be tagged by the Rams, the Bears are considering swinging a deal to fill the void at left tackle.

Touted as being a player full of promise and upside to landing on the bench of one of the National Football League's lower echelon teams, offensive tackle L.J. Shelton is at the crossroads.

Recently, the Arizona Cardinals granted Shelton permission to seek a trade and teams are already lining up.

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound, Shelton has not seen eye to eye with head coach Dennis Green. He was coming off ankle surgery and admittedly was not in the best of physical condition prior to training camp. Green wasted little time in demoting the then starting left tackle.

A demotion Shelton felt was undeserved and unwarranted.

"I was coming off an injury, but had played well during the season. I didn't expect to lose my job," Shelton said.

Leonard Davis moved over from the right side of the line to replace Shelton. During the season, Shelton earned the starting right tackle position, only to have his season end early due to a knee injury.

Known as a better than average tackle, Shelton moved much better after having ankle surgery. His pass-blocking technique has greatly improved over the past few seasons, with the 2002 and 2003 season being a rather coming out party for this physical player. Mostly thought of as a player that was not dedicated to the game, Shelton matured and has grown into a player that is willing to do the work necessary to become an elite athlete in the game

"Once I had the surgery (ankle), I was able to do some of the things I needed to do to become successful," Shelton said. "I feel good physically and look for a fresh start. I don't care where, I just want to play."

The key to Shelton's game is his strength and his ability to control defenders with his long arms, which allows him to seal, block-down, and contain in run support.

Interest in the offensive tackle is note-worthy. Along with the Bears, the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, and Oakland Raiders are rumored to have shown an interest in the 29-year old veteran. He visited Buffalo last week, but a deal was not consummated.

Arizona is reportedly asking for a second-round choice and with multiple teams interested in Shelton the Cardinals could get it, but the Bears will not be willing to pay the price. The team already traded away this year's third-round choice in the Adewale Ogunleye trade for Marty Booker. Although, the team allowed a franchise worst 66 sacks in 2004, so GM Jerry Angelo could get desperate to work a deal to upgrade the most important position on the offensive line.

Shelton is due $3 million over the next four years and acquiring him would allow John Tait to stay at right tackle, a position for which he's better suited.


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