CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to a three-year deal with free agent Orlando Pace on Thursday, adding a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle to their offensive line on the same day they acquired quarterback Jay Cutler in a trade with the Denver Broncos.
Released by St. Louis three weeks ago in a move to clear $6 million in salary-cap room, the 33-year-old Pace joins a Chicago team that suddenly has a different look on offense after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
"We really feel that it gives us a very good offensive line," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said during a conference call with Chicago reporters. "We've had some real good success with veteran players -- John Tait, Fred Miller, Ruben Brown -- and we felt that Orlando is the same. Obviously, he's a potential Hall of Fame player. He expressed to us on his visit that he wants to continue to play, and he feels that his health is as good as it's been in awhile."
With Cutler and Pace -- and promising young players such as tight end Greg Olsen and running back Matt Forte -- the Bears believe an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL last season will be more productive.
The top pick in the 1997 draft, the 6-foot-7 Pace started 154 of 158 games for the Rams while helping them win one Super Bowl and reach another. He blocked for three consecutive MVPs -- quarterback Kurt Warner in 1999 and 2001 and running back Marshall Faulk in 2000 -- but had been hit hard by injuries in recent seasons.
The Bears were looking for an offensive tackle after Tait retired and John St. Clair signed with the Browns. Now, Pace is reuniting with Bears coach Lovie Smith, the Rams' former defensive coordinator.
"He and Lovie had a relationship in St. Louis, and we thought (he is) another good person, not only in terms of what he brings to our team as a player but what he brings to our locker room," Angelo said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press