The Chicago Bears thought the acquisition of free agent tackle Jermon Bushrod provided flexibility for next month's NFL draft, but the loss Wednesday of guard Lance Louis to the Miami Dolphins could change things for the club, which holds the 20th overall selection.
A seventh-round pick of the Bears in 2009, Louis signed with the Dolphins on Wednesday, which leaves the team without an experienced starter at right guard. Louis started 24 games the last two seasons at right guard and right tackle.
Louis started the first 11 games of the 2012 season before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Nov. 26, against the Minnesota Vikings, but expects to be ready to participate in training camp.
"Last time I went to the doctor, he told me I was ahead of schedule," Louis said. "I definitely want to be there for training camp and competing with those guys."
The loss of Louis increases Chicago's prospects of adding an interior offensive lineman at some point during the draft. When Louis suffered the knee injury last season, 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi took over at the position for three games before he was replaced by Chris Spencer.
With the addition of Bushrod, former starting left tackle J'Marcus Webb, Carimi, and Jonathan Scott will compete for the starting job at right tackle, and it's likely that at least one of the losers in that competition could wind up in Louis' guard spot with rising second-year man James Brown likely playing the left side.
Three-year veteran Edwin Williams could also emerge as a candidate for one of the starting guard positions. He's logged 14 starts, including 12 for the Bears in the last three seasons.
In four years with the Bears, Louis (6-foot-3, 320 pounds) played in 41 games, starting 28 of them.
Rated as the league's 47th-best offensive guard, according to Pro Football Focus, Louis played 712 snaps in 2012, and was one of the most consistent performers on a struggling Bears line. Louis took a free-agent visit to Miami two weeks ago.
"It's a nice city, and a great team on the rise," Louis said. "I feel like Miami is going to be one of the teams to be reckoned with this year."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.