Bears retain Metcalf with six-year contract extension

Continuing their initiative toward building depth and stability on their offensive line, the Chicago Bears have reached agreement with veteran guard Terrence Metcalf on a six-year contract extension that could be worth as much as $12.5 million.

The extension, which includes a $3.5 million signing bonus, keeps Metcalf off the unrestricted free-agent market. It also means that Chicago has all 22 of its starters from 2005, when the Bears won the NFC North with an 11-5 record, under contract through at least the 2006 season.

"He's a big part of what we do," head coach Lovie Smith said of Metcalf.

Metcalf, 28, will vie with Roberto Garza for the starting job at right guard. Garza recently signed a six-year contract extension similar in value and structure to Metcalf's new deal.

A four-year veteran, Metcalf started the first 12 games in 2005, then sat out three contests with a shoulder injury. He returned for the season finale, but suffered a foot injury. The upcoming competition between Metcalf and Garza, who many around the league regard as a starting-caliber player, figures to be one of the early subplots in training camp.

By retaining Metcalf, a third-round choice in the 2002 draft, the Bears also provided themselves insurance against the possibility that starting left guard Ruben Brown declines quickly. Brown is an 11-year veteran and, at age 34, is nearing the end of his career. In 2004, Metcalf replaced Brown for five games when the latter was injured.

Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo have worked hard to add depth to the offensive line unit. Last week, the Bears signed backup tackle John St. Clair to a three-year contract extension. Before that, the team retained reserve center Lennie Friedman with a new deal.

A former University of Mississippi star, Metcalf, a physical in-line blocker, has appeared in 40 games and has started 20 of them.