A week ago, the Chicago Bears failed to re-sign offensive tackle John St. Clair, as he chose to take a deal from the Cleveland Browns. At that point, the Bears didn't have many options to play offensive line or to fill the hole left by St. Clair, which can be seen in more detail here.
On Wednesday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears addressed that need by signing the man that St. Clair replaced in Cleveland, offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer, to a three-year deal. Financial terms have not yet been disclosed.
Shaffer, a seventh round pick by the Falcons out of Tulsa in the 2002 draft, has played in exactly 100 NFL games, starting 86 of them. Shaffer has spent the last three seasons starting at both left and right tackle for the Browns, playing in 47 of their 48 games.
Shaffer, 29, was released by the Browns two weeks ago, so it is entirely possible that the Bears' front office knew they had him as a backup plan in case St. Clair decided to leave town. Either way, the signing gives the Bears additional options on their offensive line, as their other new signing, Frank Omiyale, can now be inserted at both guard and tackle as necessary.
In addition, the signing of Shaffer puts less pressure on the Bears to draft an offensive lineman with a high draft pick next month. Based on reports that the Bears have looked at wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt, it appears that wideout is their current focus for the first round of the draft.
The Bears received an additional selection in the third round of the draft this week as compensation for the departure of Bernard Berrian prior to last season. This might be a perfect spot to look for depth on the offensive line.
Whichever direction the Bears go next, whether in free agency or in the draft, it is encouraging to see them making moves of any kind, rather than standing pat.
Now, about our backup quarterbacks...