The Monsters of the Midway have genuine concerns at the offensive tackle position, especially if veteran John St. Clair is allowed to escape in free agency.
St. Clair has morphed from a forgotten-about reserve to a versatile swing man to a mandatory starter during his career in the Windy City, stepping in for 16 games at left tackle in 2008 after first-round draft pick Chris Williams came up lame in training camp with a bad back. Williams is now 100 percent and slated to start on the left side this coming season, although right tackle is a mystery on the heels of John Tait's premature retirement. While St. Clair could slide over to the right side if necessary, the Bears may have to out-bid some other clubs in free agency to keep him – there simply aren't many tackles out there on the open market.
Team officials have already met with some of the premier tackles available in the upcoming NFL Draft, including Jason Smith of Baylor and Michael Oher of Ole Miss, but a contingency plan is apparently in place.
Ed Thompson, the senior NFL analyst for Scout.com, has told Bear Report that Augustus Parrish of Kent State had a formal interview with Chicago last week in Indianapolis at the Scouting Combine.
Parrish (6-4, 297) is one of the smaller prospects on the board at his position this April and may be a better fit inside at guard before it's all said and done, but he could stick at tackle because of his nimble feet and quality work ethic. He has very long arms, which makes him tough to get around and especially effective when he's blocking outside the pocket on bootlegs and pulls. While he does have leverage problems at times and doesn't play with enough bend in his knees, he possesses a bit of a mean streak down in the trenches – coaches love that.
Draft weekend is just loaded with quality offensive tackles and will push Parrish out of consideration on Day 1, but he could hear his name called as early as the third round on Day 2.
Should the Bears decide to address sexier needs in the first two rounds, namely wide receiver and free safety, Parrish may be a strong possibility in Round 3.
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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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