Four days at the combine and a flurry of activity since has left the in box stuffed with some good questions. So we’ll do our best to tie up some loose ends before moving toward free agency, which opens at 11 p.m. Thursday.
The action should be furious from the start. So many teams have an abundance of salary-cap room and the agents are going to prey on this, working one deal against another to score top dollar for their clients in the first two to three days. It will be a whirlwind of activity with the Bears doing their best to monitor linebacker Lance Briggs, wide receiver Bernard Berrian, special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo and don’t forget about tight end John Gilmore.
Q: It would be nice to have some follow up on how Shane Longest, the local Saint Xavier University kicker performed at the combine. How did he do?
Ron C., Chicago
A: Most workouts, including those for punters and kickers, are closed to the media. So, I tracked down a scout who was in attendance and got his take on Longest’s day last week. He wasn’t overly encouraging.
``He didn’t have a good workout,’’ the scout said. ``He’s a combination guy, he tried to do both, and he’s not a punter. If he makes an NFL team, it will be as a kicker. But he’s got a long way to go. It seemed like he was nervous and it was a bit too big for him. He just looked nervous as hell. He missed two out of three extra points when he first started out. But he settled down, I can say that. At the end, he made all three 50-yard field goals. He’s got a ways to go.’’
Q: Why haven’t the Bears released Brian Griese yet? I’ve read it’s going to happen for weeks now.
Mitchell R., Orland Park
A: There’s no rush in informing the classy veteran Griese that the team seeks to go in a different direction, and it made good business sense to keep him until contract negotiations with Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton had agreed to new deals. Cutting Griese before would have only given Grossman and Orton additional leverage in negotiations. Griese is due a $300,000 roster bonus on March 4. I would expect the Bears allow him to depart before then in order to show respect and allow him to go about the business of finding a new team as soon as possible. One possible destination is Tampa Bay. He played for John Gruden previously and ex-Bears quarterbacks coach Greg Olson is now there. Olson wanted the Bears to wait to sign Griese in 2003 when he was leaving Denver instead of Kordell Stewart.
Q: I’ve seen you write the Bears will not pursue Pittsburgh all world guard Alan Faneca in free agency. Isn’t that being a little presumptuous. He would be a perfect fit for the offense and give the Bears the kind of strength on the left side of their line that the Vikings have with Mount McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson. Why won’t they sign Faneca?
Brent D., New Haven, Conn.
A: Never say never. But the Bears have made it clear they want to invest their available cap space in their own players. That means pursuing Briggs and Berrian on the open market, and that also means carving out a space in the 2008 salary pie for defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Ultimately, it could mean leaving some space for Devin Hester in a contract extension that could take place during the summer. Faneca is a big-ticket item and he could be signed, sealed and delivered elsewhere before the Bears reach a resolution with Briggs and Berrian. Also, the Pittsburgh Steelers do as good of a job as just about any organization in managing talent and knowing when to say when. It’s not often you see a player leave the Steel City and do big things elsewhere. That has to send a signal to potential buyers out there.
Q: What was the biggest surprise at the combine?
Raul H., Champaign, Ill.
A: Well, besides that it’s been nearly 72 hours since the Bears announced a contract agreement with Rex Grossman and the team has yet to produce him for a conference call? It’s hard to believe the enthusiasm the organization claims to have for him when it can’t press a phone to his ear for 10 minutes. In all seriousness, it might have been Darren McFadden’s 4.33-second time in the 40-yard dash. The Arkansas running back, who is represented by Chicago-based agent Ian Greengross, had scouts buzzing with that electric performance. That right there might ensure Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall does not gain more ground on him. Everyone knew McFadden was fast, but not this fast.
Q: Offense. Offense. Offense. The Bears are built on defense and they need to fix their defense as it is now. Jerry Angelo drafted tackles back to back in 2004 and he needs to go after a tackle again. Is there any chance he drafts one with the first pick?
Thomas F., Iowa
A: I wouldn’t rule that out at this point, but if history serves as a lesson, Angelo has been honest to a fault at this time of the year. And Angelo is saying just that, offense, offense, offense. Certainly there are a couple of attractive tackles near the top of everyone’s lists that would look great paired next to Harris. LSU’s Glenn Dorsey has some medical issues in regards to a leg injury and did not work out at he combine. USC’s Sedrick Ellis is another polished player. While he was solid bench pressing 225 pounds 34 times, Ellis had a slow 40 time at 5.24 seconds, and didn’t test well in the other drills. But to think both will drop to 14, at this point that would be a reach.