<
>

Bears finally find legit LT: Jermon Bushrod

3/12/2013

Three years of horrendous pass protection have finally compelled the Chicago Bears to address their offensive line. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter and others, the Bears have agreed to terms with free agent Jermon Bushrod, who spent his first six seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

Bushrod has been named to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and gives the Bears their first legitimate left tackle since John Tait retired after the 2008 season. A patchwork journey that included Orlando Pace, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale and most recently J'Marcus Webb -- Oh, the memories! -- led the Bears to pay what will likely be a premium price to lock down the position. (Update: Bushrod received a five-year deal worth $35.9 million.) The Bears chose Bushrod over fellow free agent Jake Long, presumably because offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer coached him in New Orleans.

Kudos to Kromer, coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery for recognizing and finally acting on such an obvious liability. We've spent so much time discussing the state of the Bears' offensive line, and their annually unreasonable requests of former line coach Mike Tice to patch it together, that it feels surreal to acknowledge such a significant move.

Webb presumably will be given a chance to compete at right tackle, the position where he began his career and where 2011 first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi has flopped.

In 40 regular-season games over the past three seasons, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has absorbed 113 sacks -- the highest per-game percentage in the NFL and the third most in raw sack numbers among quarterbacks during that stretch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Cutler's shove and verbal harangue of Webb in Week 2 last season was but one illustration of his frustration with the Bears' pass protection over his tenure.

The Bears still have work to do, even after signing Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett. Right guard Lance Louis remains unsigned, as is left guard Chris Spencer. The Bears want Louis back but will need to find a replacement for Spencer. It's also a bit scary to know that the top two candidates to play right tackle are both previously deposed starters. And let's not forget that center Roberto Garza has always been considered a stopgap replacement for Olin Kreutz, not necessarily a long-term replacement.

But left tackle is by far the most important position on the offensive line. The Saints didn't have the salary-cap space to keep Bushrod, and quite frankly I don't know how the Bears did, either. That's a discussion for another day. In the end, the Bears decided to stop their five-year charade at the position and have finally addressed it in a substantive way. Can you believe it?