Bears sign former Panthers lineman Omiyale

Lake Forest, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears agreed to a four-year contract with free agent Frank Omiyale on Friday, hoping to stabilize an offensive line that could be losing some key pieces.

Omiyale can play tackle and guard, but his role with the Bears is not clear. They need help at tackle, with John Tait telling them he's retiring after 10 seasons and John St. Clair an unrestricted free agent.

"We told (Omiyale) that we wanted to look at him at guard first, but we're not going to limit him in terms of his reps (to) guard," general manager Jerry Angelo said during a conference call. "We'll expose him to tackle, which is where he's been predominantly trained, but we want to expose him at guard as well. How it ultimately comes to fruition, I can't really sit here and say."

The Bears were interested in the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Omiyale coming out of Tennessee Tech, but Atlanta ultimately drafted him in the fifth round in 2005. Since then, he has appeared in 11 games -- 10 with Carolina last season. He started against Kansas City on Oct. 5 and helped the Panthers run for 205 yards in a 34-0 victory.

"I had been waiting around three years," Omiyale said. "That was my first opportunity to show what I had, and I knew if I could do well, hopefully windows would open."

Now, he has an opportunity with the Bears. Exactly where he fits in is to be determined.

Angelo made one thing clear Friday: He still wants St. Clair, who can also play guard and tackle.

"This has nothing to do with how we feel about John St. Clair," he said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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