Even by the Bears’ standard for change they moved quick with this one.
The Frank Omiyale-at-left-guard experiment lasted a day, just about long enough for the ink to dry on the contract John St. Clair signed in Cleveland Tuesday afternoon.
Omiyale was moved to right tackle for the start of the Bears’ second minicamp practice Wednesday at Halas Hall, a switch that came quicker than the quarterback and safety moves you usually see here.
“We’re trying to lock guys in,” coach Lovie Smith said. “He’ll play right tackle right now. It’s hard enough learning a new system playing one position, so we’ll lock him in there for a while and go.”
Lock him in?
That’s what Smith said before the minicamp started–that Omiyale would be locked in at left guard. That was when the Bears thought they would lure St. Clair back. With the unexpected retirement of John Tait and the failure of general manager Jerry Angelo to address the position in the draft for so many years before choosing Chris Williams in the first round last year, the Bears are without any depth. In fact in drills vs. air at the beginning of practice, they went without one tackle.
Smith didn’t seem unnerved by the defection of St. Clair, who the Bears valued as a backup. Apparently, the Browns looked at him similarly as he received a signing bonus of $600,000 in his $9 million, three-year contract.
“Not surprised,” Smith said. “That’s a part of it. Free agency is a part of it. Each year some of your players leave and most of the time it opens up an opportunity for someone else to step in and that’s what we’re looking to now.”
The open market offers no guarantees and the options could begin to thin out. Orlando Pace visited Baltimore today and Marvel Smith visited San Francisco. The Bears will have to be fixated on a tackle come the draft.
“We need to get the numbers up with the offensive line right now,” Lovie Smith said. “As you can see, we don’t have a lot of guys up.”
How long Omiyale remains at right tackle remains to be seen. He could be the permanent solution. He could be keeping the seat warm until the next option arrives. Maybe that’s a drawback to holding minicamp during the first possible week of the offseason program.
“Tackle is more what I’m used to,” Omiyale said. “What I’ve played in the past. But, like I said, wherever they want me to be, that’s the position I’ll learn and take care of it from there.”