General manager Jerry Angelo values his second-day picks in the NFL Draft and has had good success finding quality players in the latter stages of the selection process, but he might be willing to part ways with a few of those choices on Day 2 in order to shore up his offensive line.
The premature retirement of veteran right tackle John Tait seems to have caught the Bears off guard, as now there isn't one player at the tackle position currently under contract who has ever started a game on Sunday. While Angelo already invested a first-rounder last year on a big body up front in Chris Williams, the former Vanderbilt Commodore essentially redshirted as a rookie after going down with a herniated disc in his back during training camp. Left tackle John St. Clair becomes an unrestricted free agent Friday, reserve Fred Miller is going to give retirement a second try, and youngster Cody Balogh spent his first year in the pros on Chicago's practice squad.
Just like 2008, the '09 draft is loaded with premier offensive tackle prospects ready to come off the board early in Round 1 – and Angelo may be orchestrating a move to go get one of them.
Chris Steuber, the NFL Draft analyst for Scout.com, is reporting Jason Smith of Baylor had a formal interview with the Bears last week in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine.
Smith (6-5, 309) is arguably the most athletic offensive lineman in this year's draft, having started out in Waco as a tight end – he caught six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown as a freshman. While it's taken a little time for him to develop his technique since he's still relatively new to the position, he went from honorable mention all-Big 12 as a junior all the way to All-American honors as a senior once he started to live up to his potential. But on the down side, he spent the majority of his college career operating out of a two-point stance and seems to prefer zone blocking, while the Bears are more of a man-on-man team in the trenches.
Some mock drafts have Smith going as high as No. 2 overall to St. Louis, meaning Angelo would have to put together a promising package of picks and players to make the jump from No. 18.
At the very least, that drastic of a leap in the first round would cost the Bears their selections in Rounds 2 and 3 – in addition to a Day-1 pick next year.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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