Tackle Pace agrees with Bears

Updated: April 3, 2009, 1:11 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

On the same day the Chicago Bears added a new quarterback, they got someone to protect him.

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Pace

The Bears have agreed to a three-year deal, $15 million deal with free agent Orlando Pace, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. His first-year payout, according to the source, is $6.1 million.

ESPN's Michael Smith first reported the signing.

Moments after acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos, the Bears reached an agreement to sign former Rams left tackle Pace.

Pace will reunite with Lovie Smith, who was the defensive coordinator for the Rams when Pace was considered one of the best left tackles in football.

Released by the Rams three weeks ago in a move to clear $6 million in cap room, the 33-year-old Pace joins a team that suddenly has a different look on offense after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs for the second straight year. The Bears have a Pro Bowl quarterback they craved in Cutler, to go with promising young players such as tight end Greg Olsen and running back Matt Forte.

"We really feel that it gives us a very good offensive line," 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."

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 straight 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.

Pace had an offer from the Philadelphia Eagles, but he decided to sign with the Bears on the day Cutler was acquired in a trade from the Broncos.

Senior NFL writer John Clayton contributed to this report.