Offensive Makeover Continues

Heading into free agency all the talk was about the Bears finding a quarterback to compete with Rex Grossman. Instead, the approach has been to add talent around the young quarterback.

Fred Miller becomes the latest addition by the Chicago Bears in an attempt to improve the NFL's worst offense.

In a little more than a week the team has signed a Pro Bowl wideout in Muhsin Muhammad and added a starter to an offensive line that surrendered 66 sacks in 2004.

"We feel that what we wanted to do we accomplished and we feel very, very fortunate because you have to have a little luck in these situations," GM Jerry Angelo said. "We weren't blinded by a need and we felt that the offense is what we wanted to address and we were able to do that."

Miller signed a five-year deal worth $22.5 million including a $6 million signing bonus, a $2 million roster bonus next March and roster bonuses of $500,000 in each of the final three seasons. His base salaries are $1 million the first two years, $3 million in 2007 and $4 million in the final two years.

The Bears did explore a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for L.J. Shelton, but preferred Miller and didn't have to surrender a draft pick to obtain his services.

Miller has been a durable performer over his nine years in the league. He has started 102 consecutive games, with the last 95 coming at right tackle. His presence means John Tait will line up at left tackle next season.

Although the Bears will meet with quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and Brad Johnson on Tuesday and Thursday respectively, there is a chance the team is done in free agency until after June 1st as salary cap space is sparse.

"Right now we'll have everything on hold and we'll continue to prepare for the draft," Angelo said.

Despite three straight losing seasons, Miller said one of the deciding factors in signing with the Bears is his belief that team is not far away from returning to the postseason.

"I was with the Rams organization when we were 4-12—absolutely horrible—and I think we had the worst odds to win the Super Bowl the next year," Miller said. "We did and that's what I see in this organization, that we can turn this around within a year and win some football games and get into the playoffs and see what happens after that."

While the Bears obviously need help in pass protection, Miller is known for his physical style of run blocking.

"I'm a guy that's going to get nasty, sometimes a little too nasty where I've been none to get a couple of personal fouls and some fines by the league," Miller said. "But that's just my style of play and that's part of the game and hopefully the personal fouls won't hurt the team in that situation. But it's the offensive line and we've got to play nasty."

Miller has paved the way for five 1,000-yard rushers during his seven years as a starter, four with Tennessee including Eddie George's career-high 1,509 yards in 2000.

The six-foot-7, 320-pounder is coming of arthroscopic surgery on his ankle, but is expected to be ready for the team's mini-camp in May.

"That's the only way that you can get better is being out there on the practice field," Miller said. "I'm definitely a firm believer in you get out of it what you put into it. I'm going to try to put as much as I can into the off-season and I really believe that we have something to prove."

Miller has played the last five seasons with the Tennessee Titans, who waived him on February 21 because of salary cap problems. He would have counted $9.32 million toward the cap next season.

Originally drafted by St. Louis in the fifth round out of Baylor in 1996, Miller became a full-time starter for the Rams at left guard in 1998 and right tackle in 1999. He has started 118 of 140 regular season games during his career, including all 80 regular season contests at right tackle during his time in Tennessee. Miller has also started all nine post-season games in which he has played.

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