The Chicago Bears reached agreement Tuesday to sign former New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod to a five-year contract worth $35.9 million ($17.7 million guaranteed), according to a league source.
The deal will make Bushrod the highest paid offensive lineman in team history, and works out to be a little less than the one signed last month by New York Giants offensive tackle Will Beatty, who received a five-year deal worth $38.75 million, including $19 million guaranteed.
Beatty's cap figure for 2013 is $3.55 million. Bushrod's deal is similarly cap friendly, and according to a source, the tackle will count roughly $3 million against Chicago's salary cap for 2013.
Just hours before agreeing with Bushrod, the Bears announced they signed former New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett to a four-year contract. Interestingly, the Bears under previous general manager Jerry Angelo pursued Bushrod in free agency going into the 2011 season, but the offensive tackle decided to re-sign with the Saints.
If the Bears opt to not make corresponding roster moves such as cuts, restructures or extensions with current players, the club could be done making significant acquisitions in free agency. The Bears also hope to bring back some of their own free agents such as middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who hit the free-agent market Friday for the first time in his 13-year career, as well as guard Lance Louis, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and linebacker Nick Roach.
A seventh-year veteran and former fourth-round pick by the Saints in 2007, Bushrod, 28, became the starter at left tackle in 2009 as the team advanced to capture a Super Bowl, and has since earned two trips to the Pro Bowl. Over the past four seasons, Bushrod has started 62 games for the Saints.
The acquisition of Bushrod likely means the Bears will look at moving third-year veteran J'Marcus Webb to right tackle and 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi to guard, where he could play opposite Louis, provided the team can re-sign the free agent.
An NFL source at the NFL scouting combine in February said the Saints planned to bring back Bushrod "at the right price," but apparently the Bears provided the tackle a more lucrative deal.
Chicago's latest move reunites Bushrod with new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who spent five years with the Saints, including six games as their interim head coach, before joining the Bears in January as part of the club's new staff headed up by Marc Trestman.
Kromer worked primarily with New Orleans' offensive line for all four of Bushrod's years there as the starting left tackle.