Bears run out of offensive line options

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
12:15
PM ET
In the chaos of Scramble'11, the Chicago Bears added two big receivers in Roy Williams and Sam Hurd. They re-signed two important role players, defensive tackle Anthony Adams and cornerback/special teams ace Corey Graham. They even added the luxury of a third veteran running back, Marion Barber, who might or might not help them in short-yardage situations.

[+] EnlargeChris Spencer
Tony Medina/Icon SMINew center Chris Spencer will have a short time to grasp Chicago's complicated scheme.
What they haven't done, however, is substantively address their universally acclaimed roster weakness. Other than their much-debated swap of center Olin Kreutz for Chris Spencer, the Bears haven't added a single guard or tackle to their roster. They reportedly pursued free agent tackle Willie Colon, but ultimately Colon re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

During a news conference with reporters Sunday, general manager Jerry Angelo suggested there aren't many intriguing possibilities left on the free agent market and implied the Bears were prepared to take their lumps while developing their own incumbents.

"These offensive linemen are tough to find," Angelo said. "We've got a good nucleus of young guys with traits we look for, but they've got to come together. We can't just run up and down the starting line, get a guy with a few games under his belt, and think that's the answer. They've got to come together. We like our young players. We need to develop some of them. How are you going to develop them if you don't play them? And if you don't play them, then how do they know you believe in them?"

"It's a catch 22. We brought in an experienced center who is in the prime of his career. That's the best we could do."

Angelo went on to chide reporters for identifying problems rather than offering solutions. ESPN.com's free agency tracker will show you all of the offensive linemen who re-signed with their previous teams and those who were willing to jump. That latter list includes guards David Baas (New York Giants), Daryn Colledge (Arizona Cardinals), Harvey Dahl (St. Louis Rams) and Robert Gallery (Seattle Seahawks).

But what's done is done. There is no sense harping on the Bears' decision/failure not to add experienced veterans to this group. It's more productive to look ahead at how the Bears will deal with the hand they've dealt themselves. In short, this situation gives offensive line coach Mike Tice the most difficult job of any NFC North assistant for the second consecutive season.

Once again, the Bears will ask Tice to build a line from scratch in the shortest timetable imaginable. Last season, it took nearly half of the regular season before the Bears found a happy medium between their scheme and personnel.

In addition to working Spencer into the mix, Tice will have to bring along rookie Gabe Carimi, who has opened camp as the second-team left tackle but almost assuredly will replace Frank Omiyale with the first team in short order. Tice will have to coax significant development from left guard Chris Williams and right tackle J'Marcus Webb, and he'll have to hope that Roberto Garza's shift between guard and emergency center doesn't set him back.

I'll agree with Angelo on this much: An aggressive move on free agency doesn't guarantee improvement. As it stands now, two of their five positions -- center and left tackle -- are likely to have been turned over by the start of the regular season. Is that enough? Or have the Bears sentenced themselves to another year of fits and starts on offense?

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