NFC North: Vernon Carey
INDIANAPOLIS -- I suppose it would be too much to ask Vernon Carey to shell out a little finder's fee. A few minutes short of 24 hours after we promoted Carey as a possible target for Chicago and Minnesota's right tackle needs, he agreed to terms with Miami on a six-year contract.
The move puts even more pressure on the Bears' efforts to select a tackle in the early rounds of the April draft to replace the apparently retiring John Tait. For Minnesota, it means the Vikings have one fewer option to provide competition for incumbent Ryan Cook.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Vikings coach Brad Childress admitted the Vikings have "got to play better" at right tackle in 2009. The Vikings benched Cook midway through last season, but he returned to the starting lineup after one game because of an injury to replacement Artis Hicks.
"I think Ryan would tell you he has to play better there. I thought he came back and played better, even though that sitting down was only for a week because Artis got hurt. I thought he did play better in the last games that he played."
Asked if he would be comfortable with Cook starting in 2009, Childress said:
"Yeah. I'd expect him to take that next step. You're always trying to get better at every position. But I'd expect him to take the next step, as well."
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|If he becomes a free agent, Vernon Carey would arguably be the top right tackle available.|
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's probably a long shot, but I'm sure Chicago officials took note Thursday when Miami coach Tony Sparano said the team wouldn't use its franchise tag this year. Among other things, that means offensive lineman Vernon Carey -- who started all 16 games at right tackle last season -- is a week away from free agency.
If he makes it that far, Carey would arguably be the top right tackle available for a Bears team that probably needs a new starter if John Tait follows through on his plans to retire.
Carey also has played left tackle and guard in his career, but he made a successful shift to the right side in 2008 after the Dolphins drafted Jake Long. Scouts Inc. considers Carey a "good starter" with a grade of 76. Here is Scouts' full report on him:
Carey has been a mainstay on Miami's offensive line, since entering the league in 2004. His toughness, strength, athleticism and durability have been excellent. He has versatility because he has been effective at both tackle positions as well as guard. He has good initial quickness to gain leverage on defenders with a powerful punch to stymie his opponent at the point of attack. He is a solid technician who uses his hands to maintain body position and lock on defenders throughout the play. He is an instinctive player who reacts well to stunts and twists. He has excellent haunch power to anchor versus bull-rushers. He does a nice job double teaming defenders off the line of scrimmage and chipping up to the second level. He stays connected on the second level with good hand use, foot agility and effort. Carey doesn't have great lateral agility versus top pass-rushers, but needs to engage early in the play to be effective reacting to quick counters or speed moves on the edge.
Minnesota might also be considering its options in the event Carey enters free agency. It's well-known that right tackle is an area of weakness for the Vikings. It should also be noted that Minnesota vice president Rick Spielman drafted Carey in 2004 when he was in the Dolphins' front office.
Here's what Spielman said Thursday when asked about the right tackle position: "As we went through our evaluations, there is not a position -- I don't think -- that we would not look at to try to get better."
As promised earlier, here is a look at the prominent and available offensive linemen who can play right tackle. Consider it one guide for Chicago's apparent task of replacing veteran John Tait, who reportedly is leaning strongly toward retiring.
I've organized this list in order of the grades our own Scouts Inc. gave each player. Here's the link to Scouts' offensive tackle page. Insider subscribers also can view expert analysis of each player.
Jordan Gross (Carolina)
Vernon Carey (Miami)
Stacy Andrews (Cincinnati)
Jon Runyan (Philadelphia)
Max Starks (Pittsburgh)
Jon Stinchcomb (New Orleans)
Richie Incognito* (St. Louis)
Willie Colon* (Pittsburgh)
Mark Tauscher (Green Bay)
John St. Clair (Chicago)
Trai Essex* (Pittsburgh)
Fred Miller (Chicago)
Erik Pears* (Denver)
George Foster (Detroit)
Ray Willis (Seattle)
Some notes on the list above:
- Scouts considers anyone with a grade of 60 or above to be starter-caliber. To be safe, I included players who could fit in at right tackle with a score of 59 or above. If you think I missed someone, let me know.
- Players listed with an asterisk (*) are restricted free agents. The rest are unrestricted.
- The Panthers are expected to either sign Gross to an extension this week or make him their franchise player later this week.
- It's conceivable that Carey could also be franchised.
- Runyan has had microfracture surgery on his right knee and will need up to six months to recover. At 35, that's not a good combination.
- Andrews had reconstructive knee surgery and might not be ready to start the season.
- Tauscher is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
- Incognito has mostly played center and guard in his career but could move outside. It's a long shot.
- In general, this list shows why there are a lot of people suggesting the Bears really need to re-sign St. Clair. He's not the highest-rated player on the board, obviously, but he knows the offense and will need minimal adjustment to slide over to the right side.