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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
A surprising free-agent loss in Chicago

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

St. Clair

I wonder if anyone within Chicago's front office thought free-agent offensive lineman John St. Clair would fetch the type of contract he signed Tuesday with Cleveland, a surprising development that left the Bears without an obvious successor to retiring right tackle John Tait.

St. Clair got a three-year deal worth $9 million, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Browns essentially doubled the contract Chicago offered last month, a three-year contract worth $4.5 million.

It has long been assumed that St. Clair would re-sign with the Bears after starting all 16 games at left tackle in 2008. Chris Williams has taken over at left tackle, but Tait's retirement gave St. Clair a natural landing spot on the other side of the line.

St. Clair has been a utility backup for most of his career, and you could argue he is overpriced at $3 million per season. The Bears obviously had a lower value of his skills, but that assessment has left them needing to find a right tackle either in the draft or hope that a more prominent free agent materializes later in the offseason.

The only internal option is to shift newcomer Frank Omiyale to right tackle and re-insert Josh Beekman as the No. 1 left guard. But that would defeat the purpose of originally signing Omiyale, which was to upgrade the left guard position.

The cupboard otherwise is bare. (Pun intended.) At Tuesday's minicamp practice, undrafted rookie Cody Balogh was working with the first team.