Free-agent parade: Bears bring in CB Lucas for visit

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 03/30/2009, 05:41pm

Orlando Pace was not the only veteran to visit Halas Hall Monday.

A league source told the Sun-Times that cornerback Ken Lucas also was in for a visit, an interesting development given the situation at right cornerback.

Lucas was cut loose by the Carolina Panthers, who are squeezed for salary-cap room, and could make things very interesting for Nathan Vasher if he is signed. The Panthers released Lucas earlier this month in a move that freed up nearly $2.4 million in cap room. After signing offensive tackle Jordan Gross to a major deal, and with defensive end Julius Peppers counting $16.7 million vs. their cap, Carolina has had to dance around the cap some.

While Panthers coach John Fox did not rule out a possible return for Lucas last week at the owners meetings, he’s looking elsewhere right now. It is believed that Seattle, Lucas’ original team, also has interest in him. A career right cornerback, Lucas started 49 of 50 games for the Panthers since coming over in 2005 after signing a $36 million, six-year contract.

Releasing him allowed the Panthers to promote Richard Marshall, who was one of the better nickel backs in the league. Lucas has good size at 6-foot, 205 pounds, and is a physical performer. He was the teammate Steve Smith punched out last summer. Smith wound up being suspended for the Bears’ game at Carolina. Of course, that did them little good in a come-from-ahead loss.

Vasher, the former Pro Bowl performer, ran with the starters at right corner earlier this month at minicamp. But left cornerback Charles Tillman was sidelined with a shoulder injury and it’s not know how the action would have been divided between Vasher and Corey Graham. Vasher fell out of favor with coach Lovie Smith last season. Vasher looked slimmed down in minicamp and said he is looking forward to competing. He’s played in just 12 games since signing a contract extension in the summer of 2007. Since, he’s earned $15 million as Vasher’s deal was front-loaded.

Think of the bonus the Bears would have in working with Bus Cook on a deal for Lucas–he is the agent who represents Denver quarterback Jay Cutler.

Pace was also in to visit the Bears. He’s in negotiations with the Baltimore Ravens. If that doesn’t work out, the Bears could step in quickly now that he’s taken a physical. Adding Pace would give them three tackles, two with experience, and likely alter the draft strategy. Pace has had injury issues the past several seasons but played in 14 games last year.