The 2009 Chicago Bears Free Agent Splash Signing Is...Frank Omiyale?

Jacob NitzbergAnalyst IFebruary 27, 2009

On Friday, the opening day of the NFL's free agent season, the Chicago Bears addressed their biggest need of the offseason by signing an offensive tackle. Unfortunately, it is one that nobody has ever heard of.

The Bears reached a four-year, $14 million deal with Carolina Panthers' offensive tackle Frank Omiyale, a four-year veteran who has started exactly one game in the NFL. 

Omiyale was a fifth-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2005 out of football powerhouse Tennessee Tech. He was inactive for all 16 games of his rookie year before making his first appearance in October 2006. 

He was waived in September 2007, only to be picked up by the division rival Panthers. He was then inactive for all of 2007, making his first and only NFL start in 2008 in place of the injured Jordan Gross.

Based on that outstanding resume, the Bears gave him four years and $14 million. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the Bears made an immediate impact to fill one of the biggest holes on the team due to the retirement of John Tait.

What I don't understand is why we didn't give this money to someone who has experience playing in the NFL and for the Bears.

Yes, I'm talking about John St. Clair. Last season, St. Clair made $1.375 million, so if the Bears wanted to keep him, the price might have needed to be higher than the $3.5 million average annual salary given to Omiyale. But isn't the experience worth it?

St. Clair was drafted in 2000, and since 2002, he has never played less than 13 games in a season. He has started 54 more games than Omiyale and knows the Bears' system.  Unless St. Clair's contract demands were so outrageous, which I doubt, I cannot understand why the Bears would not bring him back.

It's still early in the free agency period, so I'll give the Bears some time to make some other moves before jumping to conclusions here. But on its own, this one is another puzzling move by Jerry Angelo and the front office.