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Friday, February 27, 2009

Omiyale An Unlikely But Fast Pickup

Frank Omiyale cashed in early this morning, in a market that may not see any movement from the Carolina Panthers but may see more former Panthers cashing in.

Omiyale, who played left tackle competently in two games for Carolina, quickly had contact from ten different teams, and had a deal together with Chicago before breakfast - a four year, $14 million deal that likely pushes him into a starting role with the team.

Omiyale, not originally thought to be much of a player in free agency and not terribly high on the list of any major news outlets, was one of the first players to sign and was reportedly coveted by a third of the league's teams. Free agent left tackles aren't often allowed onto the market, but Carolina has their starters in place and don't look to spend that level of money on a backup.

Chicago had immediate concerns about 2008 first round pick Chris Williams, who disclosed an injury after the draft that threatens his development. Williams, taken directly after the Panthers drafted Jonathan Stewart, was at one time considered to be a potential pick for Carolina; they took OT Jeff Otah a few picks later. Now, with Carolina holding a massively successful running game thanks in part to Otah, the Bears look toward Carolina to help alleviate that mistake after only one year.

Among the other vet backups looking to cash in - Geoff Hangartner is on his way to Buffalo for a visit and potential contract. Hangartner, a 2005 5th round pick, was the 2006 starter at center and started at both LG and RG in injury situations in 2008. The team didn't make an offer to Hangartner, expecting that he, like Omiyale, can receive starting money in free agency.

For Carolina's part, finding veteran linemen in free agency will not be hard within a few weeks, looking for more bargains like Omiyale and Vincent (and, honestly, Toniu Fonoti and Milford Brown, had the numbers game not gotten them) were a year ago.

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