One source told CSNChicago.com that Chester Taylor would be cut after his one disappointing year at huge money, and at 32, Taylor’s arrow is definitely not pointing up. But the team has paid him already and is not under money pressure at the position because Forte and Taylor combined are far below elite money. Offensive line
The 2010 Bears line achieved some cohesion after the midseason off week and had the same starting line of left tackle to right, Frank Omiyale-Chris Williams-Olin Kreutz-Roberto Garza-J’Marcus Webb.
It is entirely possible that none of those five will be in those positions to open 2011, and the result could be a significantly better offensive line. Spending as many as two of their first three picks on offensive linemen is possible depending upon the vagaries of free agency. The team is expected to add a veteran, likely a guard, to the mix of the starting five.
With a year of his own tape to watch on linemen running the new system, coach Mike Tice will make adjustments, possibly even radical ones.
Left tackle: The organization made a decision that it could and would live with the learning year for J’Marcus Webb. The result was sufficient evidence that the seventh-rounder is an NFL tackle, perhaps the best one on the roster. With his size and upside, the organization is expected to look at him first at the most critical line position.
“This league is so intricate now, so many different blitz packages, personnel packages, and fortunately he’s a good student, he’s very smart, and he’s got good veterans around him,” Tice said. “Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz and Kevin Shaffer have taught him how to study.”
Omiyale survived at the position but not well enough to establish himself and he projects to be in the competition at right tackle.
Left guard: Williams performed the best of any suitor for this position last season but he was a right tackle for the early part of 2009 and is better suited for the outside. This is a need position and free agency will offer alternatives.
Center: Olin Kreutz has played through three contracts with the Bears, virtually unheard of in the current NFL. But he has not been extended and he’ll be 34 in June. The organization has Edwin Williams in reserve and can slide Roberto Garza from guard to center.
Right guard: Garza’s return from knee surgery was a turning point in ’10 and he will open at one of the interior three spots. Lance Louis was a disappointment when he had his opportunity and the team has to be satisfied as to whether he has learned how to play through minor injuries. The Bears were well served by Garza and Ruben Brown but guards have been supremely expensive in free agency.
Right tackle: Omiyale or Williams will be in a competition at that spot, along with veteran Kevin Shaffer, although Shaffer’s role has evolved into swing tackle over the past year.
How really significant is this position group? Consider: For all of the injuries sustained by key figures this season, four of the five offensive line positions for the Green Bay Packers had the same starter for all 19 games, including playoffs. The fifth was right tackle, and when veteran Mark Tauscher went down, his relief was Bryan Bulaga, the Packers’ No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.
The 2006 Bears went to the Super Bowl with the help of an offensive line that saw four of five start all 16 games and the fifth, John Tait, start 17 of 19.
The 2010 Bears were 7-2 leading to the playoffs when the front five settled out with Omiyale-Williams-Kreutz-Garza-Webb. A significant focus of the OTA’s, training camp and preseason will be on clarifying the best five and getting it in place as soon as possible.