St. Clair Inks Three-Year Deal

Free agency starts in less than a week, but the Bears got an early jump by re-signing tackle John St. Clair to a three-year deal on Friday.

Negotiations have been in the works since the end of the season. The Sun-Times reported St. Clair received about $1 million in bonus money.

The six-foot-6, 318-pounder will play a similar role to what he did for the Bears in 2005. St. Clair appeared in 13 games with one start at both left and right tackle for the Bears in 2005. He signed with the Bears after the first week of the season.

Since coming into the league as a third round draft choice of the Rams in 2000, he's appeared in 59 games with 32 starts between stops in St. Louis, Miami and Chicago.

Although the starting offensive line is set for next season, the Bears will look to add an injection of youth in the draft. The team hasn't taken an offensive lineman since using a seventh round choice on Bryan Anderson in the 2003 draft.

"Actually (we) want to get a couple young guys and develop, it usually takes a couple years before you feel real comfortable with them," said general manager Jerry Angelo.

"We treat the offensive line as if it's an important position overall so if there are good linemen in this draft and we're faced with it we'll pull the trigger, but we're not going to put value above the positions to create a need. The needs are usually addressed in free agency."

Tough to Watch
Coach Lovie Smith admitted to watching the playoff loss to Carolina a few times since the end of the season. The Bears saved their worst performance for the most important game.

Despite being outdone in all phases of the game, including coaching, Smith sees something positive that can be taken away from the disappointing defeat.

"It's a learning process that you have to go through, but I'm going to still look at the steps that we took overall and we're going to build on that coming into this season," Smith said.

Price Hike
It will cost more to see Bears game at Soldier Field next year. All ticket categories will have a price increase for the 2006 season.

Approximately 60 percent of the seats will have a $5 increase. Most of the remaining seats will have an increase of $10. The increases ranged from $5 to $13 per seat. The Bears non-club ticket prices now range between $60 to $95 dollars and account for approximately 85 percent of the seating at Soldier Field. The organization has increased ticket prices for the third straight season.

The Bears 2006 home schedule includes match-ups against Seattle, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Miami, San Francisco and the three NFC North rivals.

Mark Your Calendar
The Bears will push their mini-camp back to early June in an effort to give them additional rest in the off-season.

"We'll have a 10-, 11-week program and we expect most of our players to be there," Smith said.

The team will host a rookie mini-camp the weekend following the draft (May 5-7).


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