The signing of left tackle Jermon Bushrod (74) gives Bears GM Phil Emery flexibility in the draft. | Getty Images
Updated: April 17, 2013 6:13AM
It was obvious Bears GM Phil Emery needed to upgrade the offensive line, but it wasn’t obvious how he was going to do it.
Last year, the Bears decided to focus on development, hoping that left tackle J’Marcus Webb, right tackle Gabe Carimi and right guard Lance Louis could make strides. Louis ended the season on injured reserve, Carimi ended the season on the bench and Webb improved only incrementally, if at all.
So Emery refused to risk entering the NFL draft next month with a glaring need on the offensive line. He addressed pass protection and run blocking in one day, signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett.
“[Signing them is] going to give us so much flexibility [in the draft],” Emery said. “To put it bluntly, we’re open for business. If teams want to approach us about trading back, we’re all ears.
“We’re not going to pass up on a really good player at 20 that we feel will have an immediate impact on winning right now. But certainly the draft has strengths, and if we have the opportunity to pull back so that we can collect picks, we’re very open to that.”
Emery’s background is in college scouting, and he wants to build the Bears through the draft. He has been as aggressive in scouting as he has in free agency because several of his best players are 30 or older.
For now, Emery has only five picks because he sent a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins in the Brandon Marshall trade and a seventh-rounder to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for defensive tackle Brian Price, who was cut last September.
The question is, what is the 20th pick worth?
Last year, the first two picks were valuable because of trumpeted quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. This year, the Kansas City Chiefs can’t give away the top choice because there isn’t an obvious player worth the pick.
Much of that has to do with a weak quarterback class, which could play into the Bears’ favor.
If USC’s Matt Barkley, for instance, were available at No. 20, another club could decide to move up to select him. What could the Bears get for the pick? Here are a couple of examples:
If the Minnesota Vikings wanted to move up and take Barkley, they likely would have to give up their first-round pick (No. 23) and a third-rounder or a combination of a fourth- and fifth-rounder.
If the quarterback-starved Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to move up from the first pick of the second round (No. 33), they’d have to part with at least the second pick in the third round (No. 64).
Those values aren’t etched in stone, but that’s generally a good barometer.
NOTES: The Bears re-signed cornerback Zack Bowman to a one-year contract Friday.
◆ Linebacker Nick Roach signed a multiyear deal with the Oakland Raiders.
◆ Tight end Matt Spaeth will re-sign with his original team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.