Wait. Pace would play LEFT tackle?

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Still catching up Wednesday's non-Jay Cutler news and came across this report from Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. According to McClure, the Bears are attempting to sign free agent Orlando Pace, who visited their practice facility on Monday.

So far, so good.

It has been assumed that Pace would move to right tackle if he signed with the Bears. But according to the report, Pace would remain at left tackle if the Bears sign him. That move would necessitate moving 2008 first-round pick Chris Williams to right tackle.

Sorry, I don't get it. I can only wonder if this is somehow a ploy to get Pace more money elsewhere -- perhaps in Baltimore -- because left tackles generally get paid more than right tackles.

Otherwise, I'm having trouble understanding why the Bears would move Williams and how it would benefit him. Chicago drafted him with the No. 14 overall pick in 2008, a fair spot for a left tackle but much too high if he ends up on the right side. Last season was a development year for him, spurred partially by back surgery, and by the traditional steps of NFL advancement, he should be ready to start at left tackle in 2009.

Pace, 33, has slipped in recent years and might benefit from the slower pass rushers he would face on the right side. He would be a short-term solution wherever he plays. Doesn't it make more sense to put the younger player in his long-term position and leave him there? All things equal, you would think a veteran would handle a position change better than a new starter.

That's assuming the Bears are convinced Williams is ready to take over at left tackle. Coach Lovie Smith spoke highly of Williams last week at the NFL owners' meeting, but in reviewing the transcript of his interview, Smith never mentioned his position. The gist of what he said about Williams was this: "We're excited about putting him in the starting lineup and taking off."

At the time, I never thought to ask Smith what position Williams would be put into. Everything about his pedigree, draft status and development suggest he should be ready to take over at left tackle. And if he isn't, how would the Bears know? Training camp is four months away.

Ultimately, the question comes down to the scenario where you think the Bears are best as a team:

  1. With Williams at left tackle and Pace on the right side.

  2. With Williams at left tackle and Kevin Shaffer, another newcomer, on the right side.

  3. With Pace at left tackle and Williams at right.

Given Pace's age and Williams' potential, I choose Door No. 1 for the short- and long-term. What do you think?