The new-and-improved Bears offensive line is not nearly as improved now, with the loss of unrestricted free agent right guard Lance Louis, who signed with the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.
Louis was the best Bears' best offensive lineman last season, but he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee Nov. 25, when he took a cheap shot from Vikings defensive end Jared Allen after a Jay Cutler interception.
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The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Louis was a seventh-round pick out of San Diego State in 2009. He worked his way into the starting lineup at right tackle in 2011, when he started 13 games, including two at right guard, where he was the opening-day starter last season.
The Bears opened free agency by signing two-time Pro Bowl offensive left tackle Jermon Bushrod to bolster a unit that has allowed 149 sacks over the previous three season, second worst in the NFL. But the loss of Louis leaves them short-handed at guard.
Chris Spencer opened last season at left guard but was benched after two games in favor of Chilo Rachal, who also played his way out of the lineup. Both unrestricted free agents are not expected to return.
That leaves career backup Edwin Williams, who started twice last season, and James Brown, who started the final three games after signing as an undrafted free agent. Gabe Carimi, the 2011 first-round draft pick, could also compete for a guard spot if he loses the expected competition at right tackle with J'Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott.
This year's draft is considered strong in offensive linemen, including two exceptional guards, Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper. But both are expected to be gone by the time the Bears pick at No. 20 in the first round.