During last year's offseason, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery made a total of one offensive-line acquisition, signing free-agent guard Chilo Rachal. Other than that, Emery brought in no other veteran free-agent blockers and did not draft an offensive lineman.
His lack of effort in improving the front five was well publicized, with talking heads across the country questioning how Emery could stand pat with an offensive line that had been horrible the previous two seasons.
Scott, who at that point in his career had spent six NFL seasons with three different teams, was an afterthought at the time, assumed by most to be nothing more than veteran depth. He was activated in Week 4, working in a part-time role as the third offensive tackle in jumbo sets.
Yet by Week 11, Gabe Carimi's struggles at right tackle were too egregious to ignore. The team benched him and inserted Scott as the starter.
Scott immediately proved an upgrade over Carimi and did not relinquish the starting role the rest of the season. In fact, during his six starts, Scott did not allow a single sack, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
So when Emery was asked this past January about upgrading the offensive line this offseason, he pointed to Scott as one step in the right direction. Using grading systems by both PFF and STATS Inc., Emery pointed to the objective evaluations of offensive linemen in defense of passing on draft picks and other big-name free-agents.
"It's a matter of taking the UFA market and the draft into determining if those resources are there so that you can actually accomplish all your goals," Emery said. "Did we go after some free agent offensive tackles? Absolutely. The three best didn't play ball this year. They all retired. Two of them were medical and one decided not to play. Was I disappointed in that? Yes I was disappointed but I wasn't disappointed in who we ended up with, with Jonathan Scott, who started six games for us, who gave zero sacks for the year.
"I looked at the ones that were out there. Again, we had three that go out of football. Where did Jonathan Scott rate? He was the second best. Zero sacks. Sean Locklear from the Giants, who ended the season on IR, ended up the best in that respect for those stats. He was one; Jonathan was two. So do I feel like Jon added to our team? Yes I do. That was the UFA market."
This year, Emery obviously felt there was more talent in free agency at offensive tackle, signing two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod to a multi-year deal. Emery said Bushrod will start at left tackle and J'Marcus Webb, the left edge starter the past two seasons, will be moving to the right side to compete with Carimi.
With Scott now on board, the landscape at right tackle changes. The Bears have four legitimate offensive tackles, which is one more than teams usually keep on the final 53-man roster. This likely means that Webb, Carimi and Scott will compete in a three-way competition for the starting right tackle gig in training camp.
All three have experience at the position, with Webb starting 12 games on the right edge his rookie season in 2010. At this point, it's anyone's guess who will end up the starter but, after the way he played last season, it's safe to assume that Carimi begins the competition as the underdog.
But would the Bears really waive the club's 2011 first-round draft pick if he loses out that competition? It's very unlikely, as most NFL teams won't cut first rounders after just two seasons. If Chris Williams can hang around for more than five seasons, then Carimi will get at least one more year to prove his 2012 performance was a fluke.
If Scott and Webb, who improved measurably last year, beat out Carimi, then odds are very good the team will move him inside to guard, which Emery said is something the team is considering. After being demoted in Week 12 last year, Carimi was inserted at right guard due to injuries. He ended up starting three games at the position and looked much more comfortable inside. According to PFF, he graded out higher at guard last season than he did at tackle.
This isn't all that surprising when you consider his skill set. Even though he was getting beat regularly in pass protection, Carimi still graded the highest of any lineman on the team as a run blocker. His ability to maul in the run game never diminished, despite his turnstile-like efforts in the passing game. At tackle, his lack of agility was exposed on a weekly basis. The Bears could mask this deficiency by moving him to guard, where he won't be asked to block out on an island. At the same time, his push in the run game could provide a big boost in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
With the four offensive tackles on the current roster, this is the scenario that makes the most sense. It all could change depending on how Scott, Carimi and Webb perform in training camp but based on the play of all three last season, don't be surprised if Bushrod, Webb and Scott are the club's three tackles next year, with Carimi starting inside at guard.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.