Even though he was in Cleveland on Monday and could be on the verge of getting an offer from the Browns, the Midway Monsters still have not budged off the three-year, $4.5 million contract they've drawn up for John St. Clair.
One of the few feel-good stories the Bears produced this past season, St. Clair went from career reserve to starter at left tackle after first-round draft pick Chris Williams came up lame with a back problem. While St. Clair didn't exactly put together a Pro Bowl performance, he held his own quite well against some of the elite pass rushers in the league. With Williams now ready to go and slated to start at left tackle in 2009, the Bears would like to slide the versatile St. Clair over to right tackle.
The team has already announced that free agent signee Frank Omiyale will get his initial look at guard at veteran minicamp this week, meaning the right tackle position is a complete mystery on the heels of John Tait's premature retirement.
No matter who lines up opposite Williams at Halas Hall this week, general manager Jerry Angelo has put a high priority on getting another young offensive tackle in next month's NFL Draft – and we're starting to get a better idea who it might be.
According to Ed Thompson, the senior NFL analyst for Scout.com, the Bears have set up a private pre-draft workout with Phil Loadholt of Oklahoma.
Loadholt (6-8, 332) is a mammoth of a man and teamed up with All-American guard Duke Robinson to give the Sooners one of the biggest and most punishing offensive lines in the college game. He played a lot of left tackle and earned first-team all-conference honors from many publications along the way, but he's a little lacking in terms of lateral quickness and could prove to be a liability on his quarterback's blind side. He's engineered to be a smash-mouth player in the trenches as opposed to a technician out in space, which would serve him well at the right tackle spot in Chicago's largely man-on-man blocking scheme.
While he's not a premier tackle prospect in this year's draft like Jason Smith of Baylor or Michael Oher of Mississippi, Loadholt could prove to be a solid pick for the Bears if he's still on the board at No. 49 overall in Round 2.
If Oher doesn't make it to 18th in the first round, or perhaps if a miracle happens and Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is available, adding Loadholt later may give the Bears two reliable bookends along the O-line for years to come – assuming Williams lives up to his potential, of course.
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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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