Rumors, reality not addressing Bears’ top need

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The official time when free agents can begin signing contracts with their teams of choice will arrive early Friday evening, at which point players who have already agreed to deals in principle over the last three days can finally sign on the dotted line.

A few of those players who will be joining the Bears include former Jacksonville punter Adam Podlesh, former Pittsburgh tight end Matt Spaeth, and, reportedly, former Cowboys and Lions wide receiver Roy Williams. Each of these players represents a need fulfilled by the Bears.

Podlesh is a young punter with a stronger leg than the recently departed Brad Maynard. Spaeth is a blocking tight end — something the traded Greg Olsen was not — who is in good physical shape — something the released Brandon Manumaleuna was not — who fits the mold of what offensive coordinator Mike Martz is looking for from the tight end position. And Williams is a tall receiver who brings experience to a young, speedy receiving corps.

In addition to these players who have actually negotiated and agreed to terms with the Bears, there have been an abundance of rumors about players whom the Bears have shown interest in.

Pass-rushing defensive end Jason Babin, who signed with the Eagles, was on the Bears’ radar and would have helped take pressure off Julius Peppers. Linebacker Justin Durant is an athletic linebacker who could have been a solid strong-side complement to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Speedy and versatile wide receiver Brad Smith, who agreed to join the Bills, was an intended target who would have filled multiple holes including the kick returner void created by the departure of Danieal Manning.

Wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker, Sidney Rice and Malcom Floyd, cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Ike Taylor, defensive end Charles Johnson, and linebackers Rocky McIntosh, Nick Barnett and Ben Leber have all been linked to the Bears in the past week.

Did you notice a glaring hole that the Bears need to address that hasn’t been mentioned through rumors or reality?

In fact, the only news the Bears have made in regards to their offensive line is the possible departure of center and veteran leader Olin Kreutz, which would make an already bad line into an even more unstable one.

I’m wondering when we might hear of the Bears interest in a veteran offensive lineman.

In a perfect world, the Bears would insert Gabe Carimi — who is the lone Bears rookie who remains unsigned as of Friday morning — into the right tackle spot and he would anchor the Bears run game with his mauler mentality. In an ideal situation, J’Marcus Webb would use his freakish size and athleticism to protect Jay Cutler’s blind side and keep the quarterback more vertical than horizontal this year. In the best of circumstances, Chris Williams would flourish at guard and play like a first-round pick should, Roberto Garza would remain steady if unspectacular and Olin Kreutz would re-sign with the team and ease the transition to a new center in a couple years.

Honestly, how many of those scenarios can we count on playing out? If I had to pick one that I felt would come true, it’d be Carimi’s solidifying of the right side of the line and helping upgrade the run game. But I felt pretty good about Williams a few years ago when the Bears drafted him 14th overall and he hasn’t panned out as expected.

The Bears could be keeping quiet their interest in potential offensive line targets so that those players don’t use that interest as leverage with other teams to try to get the most money they can. Then again, the Bears could feel that offensive line coach Mike Tice can put together a line of five guys currently on the roster that will succeed. While I admire his reputation as a solid line coach and applaud him for getting the offensive line to play consistently in the second half of last season, I’d rather not take a chance on lightning striking again.

Let’s hope, for Cutler and the offense’s sake, that Jerry Angelo has something up his sleeve to improve one of the league’s worst offensive lines in 2010.

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