Originally created 03/16/04

Tait brings big presence to Bears



LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- John Tait, a hulk at 6-foot-6, 323 pounds, donned a Chicago Bears hat for a photo Monday and was pleased it was the right size.

"I got a big head, so I hope it fits," Tait said.

The Bears expect Tait to be a fit at right tackle and gave him a whopper of a contract that lured him away from the Kansas City Chiefs.

After the Chiefs designated Tait a transition free agent, the Bears presented him a six-year, $33 million offer sheet that includes $14 million in bonuses.

And when the Chiefs decided last Friday that his salary cap figure of $11.5 million for next season was too pricey, they declined to match and he joined Chicago.

"The market is always going to continue to go up and I'm sure next year somebody else will do something that will top mine and it will probably be old news," Tait said.

For the money they spent on their biggest offseason acquisition, the Bears expect a mobile right tackle who should be immediately comfortable in a new offense under first-year coach Lovie Smith.

That's because Chicago's new offensive coordinator is Terry Shea, who was K.C.'s quarterbacks coach last season. Tait knows how the offense operates.

"The right side is usually a position more of power and strength. Ours is going to be more finesse and athleticism," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said.

"So we took on a different perspective. The marketplace didn't bare a lot of those types of players and John was really the only player we felt that fit that bill. And then the familiarity of the offense played a big part in it, as well."

But Tait didn't come cheaply.

"So people always talk about overpaying for players and it really isn't overpaying for players. That's what players cost," Angelo said.

"That is what the marketplace is, we're competing with other teams and we did what we felt we had to do and we felt he was a very critical piece to our plan."

And Angelo might not be finished. He said Monday the Bears are still interested in free agent left tackle Ephraim Salaam as they look to strengthen an offensive line - one that was problematic a year ago - and protect young quarterback Rex Grossman.

In the version of the West Coast offense Shea will teach the Bears, mobility is a must from both offensive tackles. And Tait has also played left tackle.

"In the traditional sense a lot of people think of your right tackle as a much bigger guy, kind of a road grader, where the left tackle is more of a natural athlete to match up with the good pass rushers," Tait said.

"In this offense you need guys who have very similar attributes, because you want to be able to do everything to the right and to the left and not have any tendencies. Both tackles have to be really good pass protectors, because you do throw the ball a lot. And because of the perimeter running game, you got to have two tackles pull."

The new offense is voluminous in terms of options and will require a learning curve, Tait said, adding that "it's not rocket science."