Chicago Sun-Times

April 2008 Archives

Remember all the work general manager Jerry Angelo did with Boston College?

He attended at least two BC games in 2007 and the Bears have seen the Chestnut, Mass., school as much as any north of the Mason-DIxon line and along the East Coast over the last two years after drafting guard Josh Beekman out of there in 2007.

Angelo was in South Bend, Ind., last season when the Eagles were there. That’s the day guard Ryan Poles’ season ended with a torn left Achilles tendon. The Bears liked him then and like him now. A source told the Sun-Times they are bringing Poles in for a tryout this weekend during their rookie minicamp. Provided his injury is cleared by the team’s medical staff, he will sign a free-agent contract.

Equipment manager Tony Medlin has matched names to numbers.

The team's Web site reveals what jersey numbers the rookies will wear.

Left tackle Chris Williams picks up No. 74, the number formerly worn by Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown. Williams wore the same number in school.

Running back Matt Forte was given No. 22. He wore 25 at Tulane.

Changes could at the end of the summer when the final roster is set.

If you thought the 2008 quarterback class was lacking ... do like the Cubs and wait ’til next year.

The 2009 crop of passers could be even less inspiring, hardly the kind of news a franchise in search of a franchise quarterback for decades needs to hear. Suffice to say no one is going to be drawing comparisons to 1983. Or 1999 for that matter. Remember five passers were taken in the first round that year and the 2009 draft will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Bears’ selection of Cade McNown. Only Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper had success from that group.

General manager Jerry Angelo cited, among other reasons, the poor talent available this year as one of the reasons the Bears elected not to draft one this year.

Two more tryout names

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Just because Illinois’ Russ Weil will not be at rookie minicamp this weekend doesn’t mean there will not be a fullback.

Indiana’s Josiah Sears has been invited as a tryout for the minicamp.

Sears, 6-0, 257 pounds, was one of the Hoosiers’ two captains last season. He played in 13 games last season, scoring six touchdowns.

He’s the second Hoosier to be coming in. Cornerback Leslie Majors, the Thornwood product, signed a free-agent deal. The Bears missed out on a third. They tried to woo IU long snapper Tim Bugg to show up on a tryout basis also, but he’s chosen instead to make trips to Cincinnati and the New York Giants for tryouts instead.

Illinois fullback Mike Weil got a better offer than reuniting with former Illinois coach Ron Turner for the weekend.

The St. Louis Rams have signed him to a contract as an undrafted free agent, meaning he won't be at Halas Hall this weekend.

It's not like what the team experienced last season with Notre Dame running back Darius Walker. The Bears had reached a verbal agreement with him before he changed his mind and eventually signed with Houston.

This was a better offer with more upside for Weil.

According to the Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Middle Tennessee State safety Damon Nickson has been invited to the Bears' rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis.

Nickson was a I-AA All-American in 2006 as a kick returner.

Also reported to be on his way is New Mexico State offensive lineman Mike Martinez, a 6-4, 330-pounder who worked out for Buffalo before the draft.

The Bears typically have more than a dozen tryout players in for the weekend and usually a few are signed to a contract.

The gig of Tuesday Morning Quarterback is already occupied, so we’ll try out hand at a little Tuesday morning draft analysis.

The Bears have been the first club the last two summers to have all of their draft picks signed, but contract negotiator Cliff Stein has a little more work to make that happen again with 12 draft picks. Given where the Bears selected, it shouldn’t be an issue getting everyone to Bourbonnais on time and it doesn’t really matter if they sign July 4 or July 22.

First-round draft pick Chris Williams is expected to sign a five-year contract with roughly $9 million guaranteed. I did my best to explain the unusual circumstances surrounding the No. 14 pick last year, New York Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Bears will do all they can to avoid those types of snags.

Second-round draft pick Matt Forte will be working off the deal of Sidney Rice, the No. 44 pick from 2007. Rice collected a signing bonus of $1.316 million for his four-year deal.

The Bears have extended a minicamp tryout invitation to Missouri-Rolla wide receiver Ashton Gronewold.

The 5-10, 190-pounder holds virtually every record at the Division II school. He caught 32 touchdown passes over the last two seasons and had backto-back 1,000-yard seasons. He’s undersized but has toughness, and the Bears went into the school to check him out, a source said. He also worked out at the University of Missouri’s pro day.

Gronewold is from downstate Carthage.

Darwin Walker has a new home.

The ex-Bears defensive tackle signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers today to help shore up a need that became glaring after Kris Jenkins was traded to the Jets and the club passed over the position in the draft.

Walker was cut loose in February following an injury-riddled season as the Bears opted not to pay him a $5.2 million roster bonus. At 30, he can still be effective but he has to stay on the field.

If the Bears had not grabbed Nebraska cornerback Zak Bowman in the fifth round when they did, he wouldn’t have been on the board again when their turn came again.

The Bears selected him at No. 142 overall and went back and grabbed Michigan State tight end Kellen Davis 16 picks later with No. 158, acquired in a fourth-round swap with Tampa Bay.

In fact, Bowman would have gone with the very next pick had the Bears passed on him. The New England Patriots had a deal in place with Jacksonville to move up and acquire No. 143 and their intention was to select Bowman. They were paying close attention to the Cornhuskers as they selected linebacker Bo Ruud in the sixth round. New England was going to deal its pick at No. 153 and obviously something else to make the jump.

The Bears released a list of undrafted free agents they have signed to contracts:

OT Cody Balogh Montana
DB Trey Brown UCLA
DE Joe Clermond Pitt
DT David Faaeteete Oregon
WR Curtis Hamilton Western Kentucky
QB Caleb Hanie Colorado State
QB Nick Hill Southern Illinois
K Shane Longest St. Xavier
CB Leslie Majors Indiana
DE Nick Osborn San Diego State

We will have more on this soon.

Just confirmed that Thornwood graduate Leslie Majors, the Indiana cornerback, agreed to terms on a free-agent deal with the Bears.

The club had been in contact with him all last week and they came to terms within minutes of the draft ending.

Off to Halas Hall for the Chris Williams press conference. Hopefully we'll turn up some more news there.

Looks like we can add another name to the list of free-agent players the Bears are fixing to sign.

The Daily Breeze reports that UCLA cornerback Trey Brown has agreed to terms on a deal as an undrafted free agent.

Brown, 5-9, 189, was a Thorpe Award seminfinalist last fall for the Bruins.

Looks like the Bears could be zeroing in on Illinois fullback Russ Weil as a potential free-agent signing.

Weil, from Minooka, got extensive action the last three seasons for the Illini and has experience on special teams also.

One other note ... the Bears were outbid by Kansas City for the services of another UDFA, Nebraska linebacker Steve Octavien.

Illinois kicker Jason Reda went to Cleveland as a UDFA. Illini defensive tackle Chris Norwell hooked on with New England and safety Kevin Mitchell is headed to Washington.

Definitively, this is the final post of the evening.

Couple quick thoughts here before I cash in after a whirlwind weekend.

*** General manager Jerry Angelo was genuinely thrilled with his draft class and it was interesting to see him buzz about the first guy to the last. Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams will meet the press at Halas Hall this morning, and Angelo is happy he’s arriving. But he even talked at length about Arkansas wide receiver Marcus Monk, the 248th overall pick. Had a knee injury not derailed him, Monk would have been a top prospect.

*** Angelo talked also spoke at length about the reasons behind drafting LSU safety Craig Steltz at No. 120 after two trades down in the fourth round from 110 to 115 and again to 120. The Bears felt he was a starting-caliber player and Angelo said it was the first time in seven drafts here he can remember scouts and coaches being in agreement on that for a fourth-round pick. The Bears have had some good ones over the years, too, including cornerback Nathan Vasher, defensive end Alex Brown and quarterback Kyle Orton.

Add Indiana cornerback Leslie Majors to the list of players expected to sign a contract with the Bears as an undrafted free agent.

Majors teamed with Tracy Porter for the Hoosiers. The 5-9, 170-pounder is from South Holland and graduated from Thornwood.

The Bears are expected to carry four quarterbacks to Bourbonnais this summer.

They’ll start with two in rookie minicamp next weekend, and there could always be a third who shows up as a tryout guy.

Colorado State’s Caleb Hanie has agreed to terms to a contract as an undrafted free agent, joining Southern Illinois’ Nick Hill, who the team targeted first according to sources familiar with the situation.

Checked in with North Dakota State punter Mike Dragosavich, the North Dakota State punter who some services ranked as the top available for the draft.

It had to be tough seeing his name near the top of Mel Kiper Jr.'s available player list nearly all day and never getting the ball.

He said he's only gotten a few calls and is hoping to have some offers to choose from as an undrafted free agent within a few days.

Robbie Gould might not be around, but he's got competition.

The Bears are going to bring in St. Xavier kicker Shane Longest (Wilmington) on a free-agent contract, the school reports.

Gould has skipped the first three weeks of the voluntary offseason program, and even if he was around the Bears need a kicker for the rookie minicamp next weekend. They try to run full practices and you need plenty of bodies for that.

The Sun-Times has learned that Southern Illinois quarterback Nick Hill has agreed to terms on a free-agent contract with the Bears.

Hill chose the Bears over five other offers.

The Bears have also agreed to terms on a free-agent deal with Western Kentucky wide receiver Curtis Hamilton.

Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli has agreed to terms on a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals. He'll compete with Brian St. Pierre for the No. 3 job there.

Stanford's T.C. Ostrander signed with New Orleans and Tulsa's Paul Smith signed with Jacksonville.

Looks more and more like it could be Hill.

Stay posted.

The Minnesota Vikings have signed Illinois linebacker J Leman to a free-agent contract.

Illinois State quarterback Luke Drone has signed a free-agent contract with the Buffalo Bills.

Southern Illinois quarterback Nick Hill is one of the possibilities for the Bears.

He has several teams interested in him right now. It would seem to be a good fit for any quarterback as the Bears have only Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton on the roster.

Hopefully we'll know soon who the team goes with in free agency now that the draft is complete.

Hill made big strides with a strong senior season and has big intangibles. He doesn't have the strongest arm but the left-hander has some upside. Hill came in for a pre-draft visit and moves well in the pocket. Stay tuned.

The Bears closed out their biggest draft since getting 12 players in 2003 by taking Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton at No. 247 and following with Arkansas wide receiver Marcus Monk at No. 248.

That's three offensive linemen total. Barton has been projected by some as a guard. He was a captain at Ohio State and has right knee issues. He did not work out at the combine but made 42 career starts in school. The ACL in the knee was reconstructed in 2005 and then he had a scope on the same knee.

It finishes a big day with 10 picks, two trades and plenty of hope. Monk is the fifth SEC player taken today and sixth total.

No, the Bears do not have a quarterback. They're expected to sign one as an undrafted free agent.

General manager Jerry Angelo is going to be downstairs soon to discuss the entire draft along with coach Lovie Smith.

We're going to tune into that action and work toward the looming deadlines for the print edition. But we'll check back as soon as we can with more info and we'll wrap it up late tonight as we did Saturday at midnight.

Talk about a full weekend. Check back soon for more information.

Joey LaRocque, a linebacker from Oregon State, went 243 to the Bears.

He can fill a seat in an empty meeting room that's missing a few bodies right now.

Two picks to go.

The Bears selected Georgia guard Chester Adams with pick No. 222 in the seventh round.

Adams came to Halas Hall in early March for a pre-draft visit and played tackle for the Bulldogs. He projects inside in the NFL.

He's a guy they watched for a while and liked. We'll see how he shapes up.

His nickname is Big Cheese.

At this point it's a real possibility the Bears could start the 2008 season with two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

About a quarter of the league went that way last season and it provides more roster flexibility.

Without a third quarterback at this point -- the Bears are the only team in the league with only two under contract -- why carry a seventh-round pick on the roster? Stash him on the practice squad and go from there.

Of course, Tampa Bay will probably cut loose Chris Simms and about four other passers at some point.

But right now, it's Rex and Kyle or bust.

The Bears, who own the seventh round with five selections, got their first one when they selected Ervin Baldwin at No. 208. He's a defensive end from Michigan State.

The remaining selections are Nos. 222, 243, 247 and 248.

Wheaton College defensive end Andy Studebaker was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 203 in the sixth round.

Some clubs looked at him as a standup player as an outside linebacker, but in the 4-3 scheme there he'll probably play with his hand down. It's a good push by a Division III player coming back of a torn Lisfranc ligament last fall that was repaired by Bears team doctors.

Three picks before the Bears go on the clock with the first of their five seventh-round selections.

Quarterback?

Guard?

General manager Jerry Angelo has gotten production from two seventh rounders so far in his tenure with the Bears, cornerback Trumaine McBride last year and linebacker Rod Wilson in 2005.

General manager Jerry Angelo came downstairs into the Halas Hall auditorium Saturday after selecting Vanderbilt left tackle with the 14th pick in the first round.

He explained, in part, the club chose Williams because it identified the line as its greatest need when it evaluated things after 2007.

Apparently Williams is all they deemed necessary. They're headed to the seventh round without a guard yet.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner, when asked who was running No. 1 at left guard at this point, said he couldn't say. Maybe we'll get a more firm answer from someone else a little later on. Maybe they'll draft another lineman with one of five seventh-round picks.

College scouting director Greg Gabriel just said, "We've got a plan and we're following the plan," when asked about drafting a quarterback.

Right now, the Bears do not own a sixth-round pick and we'll either take one with one of their five seventh-round picks or, as Gabriel just said, sign one as an undrafted free agent.

That would make Colorado State's Caleb Hanie and Southern Illinois' Nick Hill possibilities. The Bears brought both in on visits to Halas Hall. Illinois State's Luke Drone is also on the board.

Stay tuned.

The Bears added a tight end by selecting Michigan State tight end Kellen Davis, who had a higher grade but was also dogged by off-field issues. He had a misdemeanor charge for aggravated assault.

Davis is big at 6-6, 259 pounds, and has been compared by some to ex-Packer Bubba Franks.

Davis adds another Drew Rosenhaus client to the fold, an agent the team is comfortable dealing with.

St. Louis jumped ahead of the Bears at No. 157 in a trade with the Washington Redskins, selecting Oregon State guard Roy Schuening, who Bears west coast scout Marty Barrett was known to like according to a source.

Saw general manager Jerry Angelo in the hallway earlier and asked him if he had any more SEC players up his sleeve.

The Bears have taken four players from the power conference already.

"One more," Angelo said with a chuckle.

Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson is still available.

How about LSU's Matt Flynn?

Tennessee's Erik Ainge is available also.

Flynn could be the man in the seventh round. He's a smart player and spent some time behind JaMarcus Russell. He's athletic and the Bears seem content in going with a developmental player.

Two more picks until the Bears are on the board at No. 158.

The Bears are five picks away from being on the clock again with the 158th pick in the fifth round.

There are five guards on the board that could step in and have the chance to compete, maybe down the road a little.

Oregon State's Roy Schuening, UConn's Donald Thomas, USC's Drew Radovich, Tennessee's Eric Young and Arkansas' Robert Felton.

But it looks right now that the team will be selecting between Terrence Metcalf, Josh Beekman, a fourth-round pick last season, and John St. Clair. St. Clair is a solid swing lineman who can play every spot on the line, including center.

These are the same guards we were talking about in the fourth round. Metcalf is the first man to get a shot at winning the job.

Stay tuned. The pick is coming in a short bit.

The Bears stayed on the defensive side of the ball, tabbing Nebraska's Zackary Bowman at No. 142 in the fifth round.

Bowman has good size at 6-1, 196 pounds, and projects as a Tampa Two corner.

He has good instincts and hands but is coming off knee injuries in consecutive years. He tore an ACL in 2006 and the patellar tendon last year. He's really had trouble.

Seems like a medical roll of the dice with some talented guards on the board. We'll see what the team says.

Minnesota just selected USC's John David Booty in the fifth round with the 137th overall pick, the second selection of the fifth round.

The Vikings now have a quarterback to challenge Tarvaris Jackson, and Saturday the Green Bay Packers picked up Brian Brohm to go with Aaron Rodgers.

And the Bears will get?

The Bears are the only team in the league with only two quarterbacks on the roster.

The Bears' fifth-round pick is coming now.

The Bears couldn’t get Notre Dame’s Tommy Zbikowski after the Notre Dame safety went in the third round to the Baltimore Ravens, but were able to get a player with similar traits in Craig Steltz in the fourth round.

He’s a hard-nosed player who says he is fully recovered after fracturing his right shoulder in the national championship game, and figures to step in on special teams immediately. If he truly is fine medically, he could challenge Adam Archuleta for a roster spot.

Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, the third-round selection at No. 90, addressed the off-field concerns stemming from his arrest last summer. Harrison was pulled over for speeding and found to be in possession of ecstacy and cigars with marijuana in them.

On why he dropped in the draft:

“I have made a really horrible mistake and of course I have seen how it has cost me, especially today. That is exactly what it was. It was a mistake that I made in the past, but I’ve moved on from it and right now just being positive about the whole situation and taking care of my business as far as my counseling going on and the classes I have to attend in order to get past the things that I went through. The situation is pretty much behind me and I’m moving on.”

On changing associates/lifestyle changes:

“I’ve made plenty of those, especially just being around my family, being around my parents, and my sister and also my girlfriend who I’ve been with for a long time. It has made our relationship even better because my free time is with her.”

After dealing down twice in the fourth round already, the Bears went ahead and grabbed their man.

Following deals with Miami and then Tampa Bay to add a seventh-round pick and move up into the fifth round from the sixth round, they selected safety Craig Steltz from LSU.

The Bears pick next at 142 in Rd. 5, the ninth pick of that round.

The Bears are on the move again.

The proud owners of five seventh-round draft picks already, the Bears dealt the No. 115 pick overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a move up into the fifth round basically.

Tampa gets No. 115 and No. 175 (sixth round) from the Bears.

The Bears receive No. 120 and No. 153 (fifth round).

Eventually, they will pick again.

The Bucs used the pick to grab Dre Moore, a defensive tackle from Maryland.

Remaining needs are at guard, safety, quarterback and maybe a cornerback as need areas. The Bears also need to find a blocking tight end to compete with Fontel Mines for the third spot on the roster. They could target LSU's Keith Zinger in the late rounds.

Check back for more soon.

UPDATED:

Oops. The Bears misreported the deal.

They receive No. 120 and No. 158 from the Bucs, not 120 and 153.

General manager Jerry Angelo pulled the deal on his first trade, moving down from No. 110 in the fourth round.

The pick was sent to Miami for the 115th pick in the fourth round. For moving down five spots, and passing on USC quarterback John David Booty, the Bears picked up Miami's pick in the seventh round at 208. The Dolphins used the selection to take Shawn Murphy, the guard from Utah State. The Bears can use a guard too.

The Bears went for Arkansas DT Marcus Harrison with the 90th overall selection, finding a player to help solidify the middle that was troubled last season.

Coach Lovie Smith met with Harrison in a trip to the pro day at Arkansas and liked him. Many projected him to be a second-round pick.

More soon.

The Bears stayed on offense to start the third round with another Vanderbilt player, WR Earl Bennett.

UPDATED 9:41:

College scouting director Greg Gabriel said the Bears had Bennett ranked higher on their draft board than most of the 10 receivers who went in the second round Saturday.

He is the SEC's all-time leading receiver after just three seasons in school.

"He's got great quickness, and he's a very good route runner," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Very intelligent.

"I know some people are comparing him to Hines Ward, probably because of the size and the way he competes. Very productive and very competitive. We'll give him an opportunity to come in and compete right away."

Check back soon for more. We'll have a story on Bennett posted very soon.

Matt Millen deals up to get the first pick of Round 3 for the Lions.

Six picks until the Bears are on the clock.

Let’s see how this will fall. They could have a nice selection of wide receivers here.

Could Detroit grab Texas running back Jamaal Charles?

We're fixing to aim our car toward Lake Forest and head to Halas Hall shortly.

The third round begins at 9 a.m.

The Bears own nine picks right now for Day 2:

3.70
3.90
4.110
5.142
6.175
7.222
7.243
7.247
7.248

We're going to change it up a little today and post new entries with each update. It's a few less steps for us than updating the same post over and over again. Check back throughout the day.

Wrapping up Day 1

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We’ll tie up the loose ends we can get our hands on here from a busy Day 1 of the draft.

The Bears have nine picks Sunday and the action starts at 9, an hour earlier than in years’ past with the new format. With five minutes per pick, if every team uses the full allotment of time per pick, the draft will last 16 hours on Day 2. No joke. Do the math yourself. But it shouldn’t take quite that long. We hope.

*** Hard to say which way the Bears will go with the 70th pick, the seventh of the third round.

I was thinking about the possibility of USC’s John David Booty at quarterback, but the more I mull it over I keep coming back to the commitment the club has had in Rex Grossman forever. Yes, it’s an open competition with Kyle Orton for the starting job, but don’t bet for a second the higher-ups aren’t pulling for the former first-round pick to blossom. I think they will hold off on drafting a quarterback.

Here is what running back Matt Forte, general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith had to say after the Bears used the No. 44 pick in the draft on the Tulane product:

MATT FORTE

On being drafted by the Bears:

“I am happy to be drafted by the Chicago Bears, especially at running back. They have a great history of running backs there, so hopefully I can be one of those guys to make history as a Chicago Bear.”

On how he will fit into the offense:

“This is a great opportunity to come in and make a mark, I know their running back situation and I have a chance to come in and compete. Nothing is going to be given to me and I know I am going to have to come in and work hard, but it’s a good chance for me to show that I can play in this League and do well and become a great running back in the NFL.”

On his impression of the coaching staff:

“I had a great first impression of them, I love the coaches. Tim Spence came down to Tulane and him and I had a good time talking, and Lovie called me and told me that they were going to draft me and just talking to him, I get the feeling of what kind of coach he is. He’s a players coach and I think I am having a good time playing in Chicago and playing for him.”

Here is what offensive tackle Chris Williams, general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith had to say after the Bears used the No. 14 pick in the draft on the Vanderbilt product:

CHRIS WILLIAMS

On being drafted by the Bears:

“It’s great to be a Bear and to come play for a team with so much tradition. I am speechless right now. I am so excited to come in and be a part of that tradition there in Chicago.”

On talking with Coach Smith prior to the draft:

“I though he was a great guy, I thought he was a great coach. You can tell he develops a relationship with his players and he wants to be that kind of coach. I really liked my time with him and I am really excited to have a chance to play for him.”

On an incident at the Senior Bowl and his discipline:

“At Vanderbilt, we don’t fight on the field – at practice or at the games – because you know it is going to cost you the next game and that [was a situation] of just showing discipline as a player that yeah, I would like to take his head off, but at the same time, you have to show discipline as a player and be smarter than that and not take a 15-yard penalty.”

John Danks won’t be knocking the Bears’ first-round pick off the back page of Sunday’s Sun-Times.

Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones broke up his perfect game bid in the sixth inning down the road from Halas Hall at U.S. Cellular Field.

We’re digging in in the auditorium here for a long day. The Dolphins will go on the clock for an anticlimactic announcement in 45 minutes. Look for the Bears to pick some time around 4.

We'll be fully staffed at Halas Hall this afternoon and do our best to have a continuously updated blog starting a little while before draft -- probably some time after 1 p.m. -- and carry through as much of the action as possible.

Check back often.

Pack your bags.

The Bears are going to get an early jump on the 2008 season. Well, earlier than usual but they’re within the rules here.

The first training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23. This will be the club’s seventh summer at the school in Bourbonnais, Ill. The early start is because the first preseason game is Aug. 7 at Soldier Field against the Kansas City Chiefs.

A full training camp schedule will likely be released in June.

Our friend Casey Pearce from Chargers.com called the other day seeking input for his third annual mock draft.

He tracks down someone in each town to make the draft picks.

Given a choice between Branden Albert, Jeff Otah and Chris Williams with the 14th pick ... I gave the Bears Albert. Most mocks have him off the board by then. I was also surprised to see Rashard Mendenhall lasting all the way to No. 22.

Here's a look at the whole thing:

Just when you thought the smoke had cleared ...

The Bears indeed have worked out Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas today.

Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake did not make the trip as initially reported would happen on Thursday.

The Bears sent offensive quality control coach Charles London. London worked out Thomas for an hour. It’s a curious development given that position coaches are usually in on the process. It’s a last-minute move but not the only one going on. The Redskins have been flying across the country looking at prospects Phillip Merling and Malcolm Kelly as well.

Here’s hoping the Bears don’t run into the same issues with the 14th pick in the draft as the New York Jets encountered with cornerback Darrelle Revis last summer.

New York traded up to grab the Pittsburgh product after he had a great spring in preparing for the draft. The Jets were so enamored with him they demanded he sign a six-year contract. The problem was players on both sides of him were doing five-year deals. New York didn’t waver and both sides dug in.

You’re not going to find an agent out there that wants his client locked up in a six-year deal as a rookie. Not unless the money is insane. Remember, it was a hangup with defensive tackle Tommie Harris in 2004. Harris and his first agent—Kennard McGuire—verbally committed to doing a six-year contract when the Bears selected him 14th. Harris determined that was the last thing he wanted and cited it, at least in part, for parting ways with McGuire and joining up with Eugene Parker. After his rookie season began, he dumped Parker for Drew Rosenhaus.

There were three players in the first round last year who signed six-year deals: No. 1 JaMarcus Russell, No. 2 Calvin Johnson and No. 5 Levi Brown. Period. Only players in the top 16 picks can sign six-year deals. It’s a moot point after that. Miami’s Jake Long has already agreed to a five-year contract as the No. 1 pick of this draft.

With 62 players currently under contract, the Bears will be able to sign seven undrafted free agents following the draft provided they stay with 11 draft picks,

Rosters have been capped at 80 now for the offseason after NFL Europa closed up shop and it’s an important thing to take a look at, a decision by owners at their meetings earlier this month that may prove to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Very foolish.

The Bears benefited as much as any club from the developmental league in Europe. No, they never found Kurt Warner slinging touchdowns overseas, but they got the most out of the roster exemptions the league provided for training camp. Players from Europe were exempt and didn’t count against the 80-man limit. So, the Bears could carry 85, 86, 87 and maybe even a few more players to Bourbonnais with them every July.

We’re headed down the home stretch. We’ll try to tie together some loose ends here and then gear up for the action Saturday.

Inside the Bears will be doing a continuously updated blog from Halas Hall Saturday starting around 1 p.m. We’ll keep it alive and rolling as best we can until the nuisance known as deadline for the Sunday print edition comes along. The draft begins at 2 and with 10 minutes per pick, the Bears don’t figure to be selecting at No. 14 until some time around 4.

UPDATE: The Devin Thomas information has been updated in another post. Offensive quality control coach Charles London put the Michigan State wide receiver through a workout today.

*** The seed planted by Drew Rosenhaus, the Bears or both on Thursday that the club was checking out Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas turned out to be a smoke screen. As in it was a hoax. We will count ourselves guilty of being suckered in and are here to set the record straight. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake did not travel to Michigan to meet with the top prospect today.

Many expect Thomas to be the first receiver off the board, selected by the Buffalo Bills at No. 11. Obviously, news that the Bears would be interested helps Thomas in the event the Bills do not select him, and helps the Bears as they do their damnedest to make someone believe they’re not targeting an offensive tackle.

We also speculated here Thursday that Drake might have his eye on some vacation property in Michigan. That still may prove to be true, but he’s not looking for land there today either.

Not only is Lance Briggs skipping out on $250,000 by passing on the voluntary offseason program, his absence has caught the attention of the courts.

The Bears’ linebacker is due before Cook County Judge Earl Hoffenberg June 19 to explain why he has left the state without the court’s permission.

Michael Sneed details the situation in today’s edition.

The Bears will host the annual ceremony for the 2007 recipients of the Brian Piccolo Award this morning at Halas Hall. It’s something that means a lot to the franchise and there’s plenty of good that comes out of it. Typically, the NFL forks over a six-digit check to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund, and that’s a worthy cause. It’s a little known fact that the Piccolo fund benefits from player fines, so that money for horse collar tackles and other infractions gets put to good use.

As the plot thickens so does the smoke.

Or is it real interest?

Profootballtalk.com reported this morning that the Bears will get together with Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas Friday. Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake will travel to Michigan to meet with him and it could lead to a possible last-minute workout. We’ve confirmed the information with a source close to the player.

Talk about a turn of events.

No one has strongly considered the possibility the Bears will look at a receiver in the first round. The bust factor is as high at receiver as any other position in the first round. Just look at how nabbing receivers at the top of the first round has worked out for the Detroit Lions. Roy Williams is a bona fide playmaker. Charles Rogers and Mike Williams are long gone. Calvin Johnson is still dealing with back issues that plagued him as a rookie.

Mike Mulligan, an Inside the Bears confidant, takes a comprehensive look at the Bears’ draft results in the Jerry Angelo era in today’s edition, paying particular attention to what he turned up on offense.

While the organization has been successful identifying defensive players—Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris and Nathan Vasher have all been to Pro Bowls—the results on offense have been less inspiring. The Bears opened last season with just three Angelo draft picks starting on offense—quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Grossman will be locked in a training camp battle with another draft pick in Kyle Orton this summer. Berrian will start for Minnesota and Benson’s future is iffy.

Mulligan turned to the analysis created by Inside the Bears last October that evaluated how the club’s draft picks have been allocated. The primary question was has the team been better with defensive draft picks because it drafts more defense?

In part, yes. But the results might be closer than you think. In six drafts, Angelo has had 19 picks in the top three rounds. Eight have been used on offense—Marc Colombo and Terrence Metcalf (2002), Grossman (2003), Berrian (2004), Benson and Mark Bradley (2005), Greg Olsen and Garrett Wolfe (2007).

Here’s another mock draft to digest ... ESPN’s Todd McShay released a full seven-round mock from Miami’s Jake Long at No. 1 to Danny Lansanah, an inside linebacker he has the St. Louis Rams tabbing from Connecticut as Mr. Irrelevant.

In between are 250 more picks.

Let’s review who he has the Bears taking:

1.14 Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

I think the Bears would be excited by the opportunity to get Clady, who seems to have slid a little lately and is available after McShay has Denver selecting Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams at No. 12.

2.44 Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina

If Cedric Benson was healthy and was the back the Bears envisioned they were getting when they chose him in 2005, Johnson would be a perfect complement. He’s got terrific speed and the ability to go all the way. But he’s not a rugged runner between the tackles. The way McShay’s board falls, I think the Bears would be more likely to choose Miami safety Kenny Phillips or maybe even Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, who coach Lovie Smith likes. But the second-tier quarterbacks are all off the board and this is too early for Tulane running back Matt Forte.

We’ve got the numbers on the Rashied Davis deal.

It’s pretty much what his camp was seeking when it went shopping in restricted free agency. Davis turned down an extension from the club during last season and the move paid off. He had signed a one-year tender for $927,000 this season and would have been an unrestricted free agent next March. Signing now gets him some security and keeps him where he wants to be.

The base value of the three-year contract is $3.87 million. Escalators can max it out at $5.87 million.

Click below for all the details.

Rashied Davis did not have to go elsewhere to get the multi-year deal he was seeking.

The wide receiver, who signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent last Friday, agreed to a three-year contract Wednesday. Terms of the deal are not yet available, but it’s believed he received a little more than $1 million to sign.

Davis had hoped to land an offer sheet but no teams stepped up before the deadline last week. It was a situation where clubs liked him but didn’t believe they would be able to construct a contract that the Bears would not step up and match. Davis proved valuable as a slot receiver in 2006 and stepped forward to be a key member on special teams last season. This would seem to secure his position on the roster.

College scouting director Greg Gabriel projects three or four quarterbacks will be off the board when the Bears select in the second round at No. 44.

“You can pick the names,” Gabriel said. “I’m not.”

OK. Matt Ryan is likely to be selected in the top 10 picks. You can stack up Brian Brohm, Joe Flacco and Chad Henne in any order you would like. They’re listed here alphabetically. The belief now is a team or teams may look to trade into the end of the first round to nab one or more of these passers before teams in need of a quarterback come on the clock in the second round.

Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City and Baltimore all have picks at the top of the second round and could be in the market for a young gun. That means if the Bears, Carolina or Detroit, other clubs in need of a quarterback, see a guy they want they may need to move to strike.

Filtering through the notebook from Tuesday’s pre-draft session at Halas Hall ...

Maybe the most interesting nugget that didn’t involve a smokescreen was when special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he didn’t expect Devin Hester’s role to be reduced on special teams this season. Fact is, that mirrors what coach Lovie Smith said earlier in the month at the owners meetings in Florida. Smith said he would never take a player away from doing what he’s best at, and clearly being the game’s most dominant return man is Hester’s strength at this point.

The goal is for him to develop as a top receiver but that’s a work in progress.

“I’ve talked to Devin and I’ve talked to Lovie about it,’’ Toub said. ``Just having him line up on kickoff returns changes the mind set of the other team. I don’t think we’re going to see a situation where he’s not in there.

“If he’s a No. 1 receiver now, we’re projecting a lot of things, but if he is that guy then you’re going to look at it. But is he going to be that guy right now? I don't see that happening this year. That’s my personal view of it. Maybe down the road.’’

NFL.com reports that Jared Allen to Minnesota is a done deal.

The Vikings’ defensive line can now be considered the best in the league as the club has the pass rusher it has long coveted. Talk about a productive offseason. The Vikes have added Allen and safety Madieu Williams on defense will inking wide receiver Bernard Berrian.

After digesting all there was to gather on the Brian Urlacher situation this afternoon, it was on to the draft.

The Bears’ 2008 season will be shaped in large part by what happens this weekend, much more so than how Urlacher’s contract squabble plays out. With four selections in the top 90, general manager Jerry Angelo said the goal is to come away with that many starters from this draft class, or at least three.

When you look at the Bears’ offense right now, the only positions that seem locked in are tight end with Desmond Clark and Greg Olson and center with Olin Kreutz. Everything else could be up for grabs. John Tait might be moving from left to right tackle. Marty Booker would appear to be the No. 1 receiver. Nothing else is locked in.

Here’s something you can just about lock in ... the Bears will take an offensive lineman in the first round. Angelo’s draft history is strongest on the lines. His philosophy in building a franchise begins with the line on both sides of the ball. His greatest need is at offensive tackle. The New York Giants pulled a monster upset in Super Bowl XLII by toppling the New England Patriots with what? Dominant line play. Need more compelling evidence?

It was not surprise to spot agent Eugene Parker at Halas Hall this afternoon.

As expected, he made the trip to Lake Forest from his base in Indiana, showing up to discuss the future of wide receiver/returner Devin Hester with management.

Surely Parker’s arrival was relief for general manager Jerry Angelo, who was at least mildly irked by the barrage of questions centered on the face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher. That’s a face that is no doubt frowning in his contract staredown with the club. More on that situation later on.

General manager Jerry Angelo said safety Mike Brown (ACL, knee) and runing back Cedric Benson ( broken leg/ankle) should be "up and going with no restrictions" by the end of May.

Angelo said all players under contract should be cleared for participation by then.

Check back soon for more.

Would the Bears grab Arkansas running back Darren McFadden if he falls on Saturday?

Would they consider dealing up to grab him?

Consensus is the Bears will seek an offensive tackle, preferably someone who can play on the left side, with the 14th pick in the draft.

But general manager Jerry Angelo revealed today he believes McFadden is the best player in the draft. He also listed LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan as the top players available.

Sometimes players will not be happy with their contracts.

That’s what general manager Jerry Angelo said Tuesday.

He didn’t need to address Brian Urlacher specifically to get his point across when discussing the team’s goal of rewarding its own, including defensive tackle Tommie Harris, returner Devin Hester and kicker Robbie Gould.

``It is what it is,’’ Angelo said. ``Players have feelings. You’re not going to have one big happy family, it just doesn’t happen that way.’’

The Bears have a new partner for preseason games, announcing a working relationship with Fox-32 today.

Fox will carry all four preseason games with the Aug. 21 meeting with San Francisco at Soldier Field (a Briggsgate battle) being a national telecast.

Not only is the team changing networks, but Mike Ditka is out as the color analyst for preseason games. He will be replaced by former quarterback Erik Kramer, the guy who holds some of the passing records Sid Luckman does not own. Kramer will team with play-by-play voice Dave Barnett.

Here is a look at the Brian Urlacher contract numbers so you can boil the situation down to the dollars and cents because no matter what is said ... it is all about the money.

Urlacher currently has four years remaining on the $56.65 million, nine-year contract he signed in 2003. That extension came with two years remaining on his rookie contract.

There is $22.4 million remaining to be paid in base salary. He’s passing on a minor workout bonus of $50,000 by skipping the voluntary workout program.

The Bears will come out of a draft meeting or Brian Urlacher spin session, whichever is on the late-morning schedule, and meet the media for the annual pre-draft gathering Tuesday at noon.

This is where general manager Jerry Angelo is likely to announce his top three wishes for the 14th overall pick in the draft. If he spilled the beans no one would believe he was doing so and it would be considered a great ruse. In fact, I can’t think of a greater smokescreen on the day created for smokescreens.

Check in during the day as we provide updates.

Could Jerry Angelo be fixing to make like George Jefferson and go “movin’ on up” when the draft begins Saturday?

Well, if you’ve checked out Armando Salguero’s story today in the Miami Herald, maybe it’s in the cards. Salguero reports that the Bears are among four teams considering options to move up and snare Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. It’s a pretty good bet that any of the teams holding a top four pick—Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta and Oakland—would love the opportunity to move down and collect more selections while getting out from under the burden of a massive rookie contract.

The prevailing feeling of late has been that the Bears will address their needs on the offensive line before anything else when the draft begins Saturday.

But in Rick Gosselin’s mock draft Version 2.0, the Dallas Morning News football big foot changes directions. Gosselin, who annually is the most accurate or among the most accurate in forecasting the first round and the top 100 players chosen, has the Bears selecting Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart with the 14th overall pick. Yes, the same Stewart who recent had toe surgery and could be sidelined when training camp opens.

If you can pull yourself away from the hand-wringing going on over Brian Urlacher’s contract demands, the Bears have turned their business focus to another player, Devin Hester.

The team and representatives for the returner/receiver have plans to discuss their situation this week, and a face-to-face meeting involving agent Eugene Parker is possible. The team got serious with the Rosenhaus brothers two weeks ago when they came to town to work on a deal for defensive tackle Tommie Harris. When those efforts stalled, the decision was made to move forward and laying the groundwork for a longterm extension for Hester, who is signed for two more seasons, is a top priority.

Wheaton College defensive end/outside linebacker Andy Studebaker waited as long as he could to put on a show for NFL scouts on Friday.

The road to recovery following a torn Lisfranc ligament suffered last season playing for the small Division III school was a long one, and he only had four weeks of training for his pro day that was held in Evanston. The Bears were one of seven teams in attendance (Baltimore, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, the New York Jets and Philadelphia also showed up) and interest in him is on the rise. He’ll have a private workout for the Cleveland Browns Monday.

If the agent said it, is it coming out of the client’s mouth?

Brian Urlacher’s good friend Jay Glazer (he attended the man’s wedding) chimed in on the latest turn of events in the middle linebacker’s bid for more dough Friday.

Glazer, the Fox Sports reporter who wrote a blog with Urlacher last season when he was boycotting media, has a two-minute update over the phone that can be found here. Glazer refutes the Sun-Times report that “Urlacher’s agents have asked the team if they could explore a trade’’ and “Urlacher is threatening to retire because of beck and back problems.”

The Sun-Times is standing behind Mike Mulligan’s published report, and if you listen to Glazer’s report, he certainly leaves the window open that these tactics have, indeed, been a part of negotiations.

``He did say though, `Look, when my agents (Pay Dye Jr. and Bill Johnson) go and meet with the Bears, I’m sure they say things in negotiations,’’’ Glazer said, speaking about Urlacher. ``I don’t know what’s being said in there. And I don’t want to know everything that is being said in there. They fight it out with the Bears. The Bears, I’m sure they some things about me. I don’t want to know what they say about me half the time. That’s just negotiations. The one thing I do know is I’m not looking to retire.’

Rashied Davis will sign the one-year tender offer the Bears made him this afternoon.

Agent Wynn Silberman confirmed the wide receiver will return to the team this season. Davis had been shopping himself as a restricted free agent. The deadline for RFA’s to sign offer sheets is tonight at 11, and Davis doesn’t have anything brewing so he will put his signature to a contract that will pay him $927,000 in 2008.

Talk about a tough list to compile.

The biggest draft busts of all-time.

ESPN.com tackled the task, ranking the top 50 colossal draft failures over the years. From Ryan Leaf at No. 1 to Michael Westbrook at No. 50 with 48 similarly unproductive players in between. The list is from 1967 when the NFL and AFL merged drafts, but is heavily weighted to the last two decades. Obviously, there are a lot of factors to consider, and the higher the pick, the higher the platform they fall from? Right.

I was curious to see where any Bears stacked up, especially from the 1990’s when they were much more hit than miss in the first round.

Would you believe there were only two?

What to do now?

The momentum the Bears had around the combine when they whipped through contracts for quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, defensive end Alex Brown and tight end Desmond Clark is gone. Long gone.

The man team president Ted Phillips called the “face” of the organization wants more money with four years remaining on his contract. It’s a delicate situation for middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, a former defensive player of the year award winner, made more awkward by the six-time Pro Bowler suggesting he could retire with neck and back ailments. Inside the Bears co-worker Mike Mulligan details the entire situation.

Proving an injury would allow him to keep the $13 million in bonus money he collected after signing his nine-year, $56.65 million extension in 2003. It would prevent him from playing again too. His agents have also dropped the idea that he be allowed to explore a trade. Urlacher has stayed away from the voluntary offseason program which is two weeks old, and has made it known he is willing to pass on mandatory activities otherwise known as minicamp and training camp.

With the Bears headed East to work out Virginia guard Branden Albert next week, that just about completes a run through the top available linemen.

Albert has reportedly been climbing draft boards the last few weeks with many now projecting him as a left tackle. He has long arms and is agile on his feet with a background as a basketball player. The Bears will head in for a final look at him in the days leading up to the draft, a source said Wednesday.

So Albert will join Boise State’s Ryan Clady and Boston College’s Gosder Cherilus as prospects the team is known to have had private workouts with. The Bears were one of a handful of teams at a workout by Pittsburgh’s Jeff Otah last week, and the team is known to have gone into Nashville, Tenn., to check out Chris Williams of Vanderbilt. The Bears also attended the pro day at USC where Sam Baker worked out.

Jumped on a conference call with the Godfather of draft projections, Mel Kiper Jr., this morning to pick his brain.

Kiper will once again be joining ESPN’s coverage of the April 26-27 draft, and his annual Draft Report is as thorough as you can find. I just got mine in the mail the other day and he has an interesting projection for the Bears. Kiper’s most up-to-date forecast will be released the day before the draft.

Anyway, here’s how he stacked up the Bears’ selection in a four-round mock:

1.14—Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
2.44—Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
3.70—Kevin Smith, RB, Central Florida
3.90—Jerome Simpson, WR, Coastal Carolina
4.110—Stanford Keglar, LB, Purdue

Kiper believes the Bears are on their way back to contention this season and sees the club filling its holes through the draft. We asked him two questions:

From Devin Hester’s mind to Deion Sanders’ lips ... or something like that.

Everyone knows the sensational return man has a close friend and confidant in Sanders, and his buddy did the talking for him appearing Tuesday on the NFL Network’s “Total Access.” Sanders was discussing the slate of games the league will televise, including the Week 15 meeting between New Orleans and Chicago Thursday, Dec. 11 at Soldier Field.

“Come on, the quarterback problems of the Chicago Bears are still there and then they gave away every receiver they had that was halfway decent,” Sanders said. “They’re looking for tremendous things from this guy, Devin Hester, but Devin Hester isn’t happy with his contract and he deserves to be paid amongst the league’s best.

“So I look at a myriad of problems for the Chicago Bears and they’ve got to address those issues now.”

It adds up to 6-10

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The boss ordered it up—the annual forecast of wins and losses that comes along with the release of the NFL schedule. In the midst of negotiations for an expense-paid trip to the 2009 Pro Bowl, I was in no position to beg off.

I’m not sure if I have ever been within a few games of actually being correct when it comes to this. So much can change between now and training camp, let alone the beginning of the season, and for the Bears’ sake they better hope there is some change.

The NFC North would appear to be at least somewhat up for grabs following the retirement of Brett Favre in Green Bay and his follow-up comments to that in which he asserts he’s done playing. Never say never. The Packers still have some developing young talent and they didn’t win 13 games by mistake in 2007. The Vikings have a fabulous running back in Adrian Peterson, a dominant offensive line, a deep threat in Bernard Berrian and an improving defense led by Leslie Frazier. It’s up to quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and the offensive guru in Brad Childress for them to take the next step. Rod Marinelli is finishing his work with the push broom in Detroit, reshaping the roster from top to bottom. Somewhere, quarterback Jon Kitna certainly is talking about 10 wins, right?

So, do you put the Bears in the same class with Dallas, Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and San Diego?

Apparently the NFL and network executives (to the extent they have say over who plays and when) do. The Bears join those seven teams as the only clubs to have five games scheduled in prime time for the regular season. Sunday night games on NBC starting in Week 11 (like the Bears Nov. 30 date at Minnesota in Week 13) are subject to be swapped out in flex scheduling.

The Bears are the only team in the group not to have a winning record in 2007. They happen to play two teams on the list—Indianapolis and Philadelphia in night games.

The Super Bowl champion New York Giants have four games set for prime time. Same goes for the defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers.

Some predictions are already trickling in as to how the Bears’ 2008 campaign will finish. Before we get to the completely haphazard business of projecting things ourselves, we’ll review some notes about the upcoming slate of games.

*** With the preseason opening Aug. 7 against Kansas City, you can project that the club’s seventh training camp at Olivet Nazarene University will open in Bourbonnais, Ill., just prior to the weekend of July 26-27. Chances are it will be the 24th, but the team has yet to make an announcement.

*** The Bears were slated to play five prime-time games last season but had the Nov. 18 game at Seattle (originally scheduled to be on NBC) bumped in flex scheduling after their poor start. The Nov. 30 game at Minnesota is subject to flex scheduling. It’s set to be a prime-time appearance on NBC also.

The networks and the NFL must feel pretty good about the Bears bouncing back in 2008 as they have been given five games in prime time.

That’s the same number they had when the schedule was released last spring coming off of their appearance in Super Bowl XLI.

But it won’t be an easy start to the season as the Bears go from Indianapolis, where they will play the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, to Carolina. The team has not started the season with two road games since 2003 when they didn’t play at Soldier Field until after two road dates and a bye to allow for the final construction of the rebuilt stadium. The home opener is Sept. 21 vs. Tampa Bay. The makeup is having three of four games in December at home, including consecutive night games vs. New Orleans on Thursday, Dec. 11 (NFL Network) and Green Bay on Monday, Dec. 22 (ESPN).

More details are leaking out on the schedule.

The Bears will play at least three prime time games as we just got tipped off that they are scheduled to play at Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 30, in a game televised by NBC.

That is after flex scheduling begins, so it is of course subject to change.

We’ve got about 90 minutes until the NFL unveils the 2008 schedule unless we stumble across the information elsewhere sooner.

As soon as we get it, we’ll break it down. Prognosticators and sports editors love to see game-by-game predictions, so at some point we’ll put together a chart.

The Bears-Packers rivalry in the post-Brett Favre era is the stuff worthy of prime time.

When the NFL releases the schedule today at 1 p.m., included will be a December meeting between NFC North foes on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

The wait for the NFL schedule to be released will end Tuesday.

A Bears spokesman said the league will use its television station as a platform to release the schedule at 1 p.m. The Bears know they open the season Sept. 7 against the Indianapolis Colts in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

This is about two weeks later than the schedule has been released in recent years. There was some talk at the owners meetings that the league wanted to ensure it had divisional games near the end of the schedule in an effort to eliminate as many inconsequential Week 16 and 17 matchups as possible. The delay could have involved tweaking the late-season lineup of games.

While it’s impossible to say how things will fall on draft day, one source who has been on the money in the past said this weekend that it’s doubtful the Bears will address their need at wide receiver in the first two rounds.

That’s not surprising given what are probably more glaring holes on the offensive line and at running back, but there’s no telling what could happen April 26. If a receiver the Bears covet falls there could be too much value to pass up. What the tip does do is give you an idea where the team is looking for help at the position.

With 12 days until the start of the draft there are hundreds of mock drafts popping up all over the place. They’re spreading faster than paparazzi on the tail of Britney on a weekend bender.

Look long enough and you can find the Bears selecting just about any player you want in the first round with the 14th pick.

Chad Henne? I found it.

DeSean Jackson? I’m not kidding.

Look long enough and you’ll find about anything. I’ve poured through so many, I can’t remember where and how, just some of the who’s.

The Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin is widely regarded as one of the kings of the inexact science. His projection of the top 100 players every April is generally as good as or better than anything else you can get your hands on. That will not come out until April 25, the day before the draft.

The first of three mocks by Gosselin came out Friday and he projected the Bears to choose Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah at 14, passing on Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall (No. 15, Detroit) and Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams (19, Philadelphia).

Fresh off the Bears’ meeting with Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall on Thursday, word is the club recently got together with Central Florida’s Kevin Smith. General manager Jerry Angelo was present, our source tells us.

With two weeks to go until the draft, clubs are working as diligently to put out smokescreens as they are to polish off final preparations.

“Jerry invented the smokescreen,” one prominent agent said in a conversation Thursday.

Q&A: The replies

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Thanks for all of the questions. I got to as many as possible. Some were edited for length, clarity, etc. Some wound up being somewhat repetitive. We’ll do it again soon.

Q: Assuming the Bears take a running back in the first three rounds of the draft, what will that mean for Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson? Is it possible the Bears will carry four running backs out of training camp? Also, if the Bears ask Israel Idonije to bulk up in order to slide down into the defensive tackle position (which has been reported recently), will that effectively remove him as a "wedge buster" on special teams? I would hate to see both him and Brendon Ayanbedejo missing from coverage teams.

Sam, Carol Stream

Hi Sam,

The Bears are not going to give up on Wolfe, a third-round pick in 2007, after one season. They’re more likely to cut their losses with Cedric Benson before Wolfe. They need to find a better defined role for him as a change-of-pace back this season but before they do that they need to straighten out the running game, period. I think it’s fair to say Peterson showed he’s not cut out for the backup role but he’s a valuable performer on special teams and has been durable. I don’t see why the Bears would not keep four running backs (five if you count a fullback). They kept six wide receivers last season and virtually never used Mike Hass.

As far as Izzy, I’d expect him to still be a part of the coverage teams. He’s got a special combination of size and speed and even if he bulks up a little to move inside, he’ll still be valuable for Dave Toub’s special teams.

The Bears were one of 13 teams at a private workout Wednesday for Pittsburgh offensive linemen Jeff Otah and Mike McGlynn.

Otah ran the 40-yard dash in 5.28 and 5.31 seconds and put up 25 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds. He had 29 reps at the combine. He also did positional drills. Otah had delayed working out at the school because of a lingering ankle issue. He checked in at 6-6, 323 pounds, 13 lighter than from the combine. His 40 times from Indianapolis were in the 5.6’s, so he helped himself in that sense as much as anyone puts weight into that measurement for an offensive tackle.

Given his injury history he’s no sure fix for the return woes of Kansas City, but he might be enough to scratch Rashied Davis off the list of possible targets for the Chiefs.

Free-agent B.J. Sams signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs today, filling a need they have been looking to solve this offseason after Eddie Drummond fizzled in the role trying to replace Dante Hall. It’s a job Kansas City could have used Davis in if it pursued the wide receiver in free agency. As it stands, Davis is now nine days away from the deadline for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet with another club.

April not only brings showers but also invitations to join mock drafts. Lots of mock drafts.

I participated in one Tuesday for the Sporting News which will be published soon. I won’t spill the beans on the whole thing—they probably wouldn’t look kindly on that—but I will reveal what I did for the Bears with the 14th pick of the first round.

Can you wrap your mind around Pittsburgh offensive tackle Jeff Otah?

That’s who I grabbed for the Bears.

With the Bears and defensive tackle Tommie Harris appearing to be near nitty gritty time for a contract extension to be worked out, you’d have to imagine any deal crafted will make him the highest-paid player at his position in the league.

Harris has to receive more money than Oakland’s Tommy Kelly whether the Raiders’ spending spree this offseason has been sensible or not.

When you talk to offensive coaches around the league, Harris is the first person they are concerned with when game planning against the Bears’ defense. Not Brian Urlacher. Not Lance Briggs. They’re worried about dealing with Harris. The Bears know what his value to the scheme is and that’s why a priority is being placed on ensuring he has help inside this coming season. Dusty Dvoracek is said to be doing fine in his recovery from a torn ACL from last September, but don’t be surprised if general manager Jerry Angelo makes a move for another tackle in the first three or four rounds of the draft.

The luncheon Tommie Harris attended Tuesday at Maryville Academy celebrated his performance this past season.

The dinner he attended Tuesday evening zeroed in on the Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s future.

Harris got together with agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus to meet over the Bears’ latest contract proposal. The outcome of their talks is unknown, but this is much is evident: Things are heating up when the Rosenhaus brothers come to town.

They’re not going to travel to Chicago in the offseason for a casual visit. This is business and if past negotiations with linebacker Lance Briggs are an indication, we’ll know more about Harris’ future soon.

Wow. The mailbox is stuffed and I’ll start work soon to get as many questions answered as I can on Friday. No promises I can get through all of them as there is much draft news to hunt down.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was honored at Maryville Academy Tuesday afternoon at a luncheon in which he was given the Ed Block Courage Award. Harris showed up with coach Lovie Smith and a few teammates and owner Virginia McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips were also on hand.

Phillips got hit with some questions about linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is seeking more money. Urlacher had neck surgery this offseason and is coming off his first non-Pro Bowl season that was not shortened by injury. He has been absent from the first two days of the voluntary offseason program, which began Monday.

``You know what, he didn’t come to all the workouts last year either so we understand, he told Lovie,’’ Phillips said. ``Obviously, we’d like 100 percent participation and I think we’ve been spoiled over the years because we’ve gotten very close to that and sometimes it turns out that players don’t want to come for different reasons, we respect that. We’ll still try to get him here as soon as possible. Because he's a leader of our team, he's the face of our organization and we want him here.’’

Time to go to the mailbag.

Send your questions in and I will do my best to answer as many as possible on Friday.

Include your name and hometown.


It was just a matter of time before the Bears got around to doing their due diligence with running back Rashard Mendenhall.

The Niles West product will visit Halas Hall on Thursday, joining the list of top backs the club has gotten together with in recent weeks.

Most draft observers view Mendenhall, who offensive coordinator Ron Turner recruited to Illinois, as the No. 2 back in the class behind Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. After those two, the rankings become more muddled with some prospects who provide good depth for the end of round one and into the third round.

The Bears have never had issue with the performance Lance Briggs has provided on the field. Ultimately, it’s why general manager Jerry Angelo said at the combine that he did not have a problem investing in the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker long term as a core player after he earned more than $7.2 million last season with the franchise tag.

Briggs has been a model of durability, going through the first four seasons of his career without missing a game before hamstring issues sidelined him for 2 1/2 games in 2007. He’s a perfect fit on the weak side in Lovie Smith’s Tampa Two scheme and after signing him to a $36 million, six-year contract, the Bears view him as a fixture for seasons to come.

But they’ve also protected themselves in the future. Briggs’ $3.3 million roster bonus for 2010—the final roster bonus in the deal—does not come due until June 10 of that year. That’s three months after most roster bonuses are paid at or near the start of the league year in March. What it means is the Bears will be able to decide whether or not they want to stay on the hook for the contract, or if they want to cut ties. The key is they will have time to make that decision after free agency and the draft have taken place.

It’s been almost three weeks, so either the figure has grown since Drew Rosenhaus put the finishing touches on a $4 million, two-year contract for Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Hartwig, or the agent has taken a little vacation.

That figure is the $440 million in contracts Rosenhaus had negotiated this offseason when he completed Hartwig’s deal March 18. Included is the $42 million that went to ex-Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian in Minnesota, the $36 million linebacker Lance Briggs bagged from the Bears, and the $4.9 million Brendon Ayanbadejo received to play special teams in Baltimore.

Rosenhaus will look to pad that figure when he arrives at Halas Hall Tuesday to work on a deal for defensive tackle Tommie Harris. That will be the order of business for the day as general manager Jerry Angelo works to secure one of the cornerstones for the defense longterm. Harris’ rookie contract expires after this season.

Tim Spencer’s trip South to meet with Tulane running back Matt Forte wasn’t the only business he knocked out.

A representative for Texas running back Jamaal Charles said he worked out for Spencer, the running backs coach, Wednesday in Austin. Spencer hooked up with Forte Thursday in New Orleans.

Charles is considered a likely second-round pick and could be someone the Bears target with the 44th overall selection. He replaced Cedric Benson for the Longhorns and after three seasons only Ricky Williams, Benson and Earl Campbell are ahead of him on the career rushing list.

Could general manager Jerry Angelo look to push an ex-Longhorn with another Longhorn?

The rule in Mike Dragosavich’s family is you had to be 8 to attend your first real Bears game.

With five season tickets in the family through his step-father, the Richards product and North Dakota State punter has long been a fan of his hometown team.

``I just bought some Bears’ Zubaz off Ebay for 50 bucks,’’ Dragosavich said Friday morning. ``Of course, I’m a fan.’’

The Inside the Bears staff is not sure whether or not Dragosavich was joking about the Zubaz. We’re going to operate under good fashion sense and assume he was.

Cedric Benson.
Mike Williams.
Aaron Rodgers.
Troy Williamson.

Maybe the Bears didn’t make the worst choice in the first round of the 2005 draft among NFC North clubs.

Scouts Inc. takes an interesting look at the class from three years ago and if you buy into their grading, no one in the division did well.

For the Bears, who earned a D, the most productive player of the class has been traded away to the Carolina Panthers. We’ll find out what they turn safety Chris Harris into in three weeks when they use the fifth-round draft pick they picked up in exchange for him.

The Bears got together with Tulane running back Matt Forte on Thursday in New Orleans in a get-to-know-you session. They broke bread, chatted and then broke down film for a couple hours.

With the team having a pressing need to draft an offensive tackle with the 14th overall pick, Forte is among a group of running backs expected to be available when the Bears go on the clock in the second round with the 44th pick. Coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo have discussed the depth the position has in this draft with Smith talking about it Wednesday at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.


``It’s probably better getting linemen earlier,’’ Smith told reporters at the owners meetings. ``More running backs have turned out later in the draft than have offensive linemen.’’

True enough. But the team that gets off the bus running needs to have someone to hand the ball to.

The San Francisco 49ers and Bears will have the opportunity to add another chapter to the bad blood created by Briggsgate when they meet in a nationally televised preseason game Aug. 21 at Soldier Field (7 p.m., Fox). It will be the third and most important game of the preseason, meaning starters should play into the second half of the game.

The Niners were stripped of their fifth-round draft pick and ordered to swap positions with the Bears in the third round (improving the Bears’ positioning by five spots from 75th overall to 70th) after commissioner Roger Goodell ruled they tampered with Lance Briggs when he was under contract to the Bears last season. The Bears formally brought accusations against San Francisco, inciting the 49ers. The teams have met in the preseason in three of the last four seasons.

We’re not going to be able to deliver the goods with the regular-season schedule today as originally anticipated. But the Bears are expected to release their preseason schedule soon, perhaps later today or Friday morning.

Hey, it's better than nothing. Well, until you pay full price to watch three quarters of backups run around and hit one another.

It’s already know the team will open the regular season Sept. 7 at Indianapolis in the first official game at new Lucas Oil Stadium.

USC running back Chauncey Washington probably helped himself the most Wednesday at the Trojans pro day, wowing scouts with a 4.35 40-yard dash. It was a performance that probably ensures he will be selected.

But Bears West Coast scout Marty Barrett, in attendance, might have been keeping a closer watch on the offensive linemen on display.

Mike Mulligan checked in from the airport in Florida on his way from the owners meetings.

He got a couple interesting tidbits during breakfast with Lovie Smith Wednesday morning. Check right here for his full story.

A few highlights:

*** Smith projected that Mike Brown will be the starting free safety. Presumably, that means Danieal Manning is out of a job and Brandon McGowan and Kevin Payne will battle for the strong safety job.

*** Smith reiterated John Tait could be moved from left tackle to right tackle depending on what kind of personnel is added. He couldn’t name an offensive line, though, or a quarterback. And then there’s the situation at running back. Smith called the position deep in the draft.

Could be the Bears wait until draft weekend to explore a replacement for third tight end John Gilmore.

Veteran free agent Aaron Walker visited Halas Hall March 12 and remains a possibility, but with the draft 3 1/2 weeks away now it could be the organization will see what that weekend brings before making a move.

One possibility is LSU’s Keith Zinger, who tight ends coach Rob Boras worked out Tuesday in Baton Rouge, La. Zinger is a physical player at 6-4, 270 pounds, who made 32 career starts for the Tigers. He was rarely used in the passing game in school, but the Bears are looking for someone who can be a solid in-line blocker in short yardage and goalline situations.

Owners passed a rule Tuesday that will permit a defensive player to wear a radio speaker in his helmet at the meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., a measure Bears coach Lovie Smith has long been in favor of adding.

Smith wasn’t so lucky with another more obscure rule, one many were not aware of until the Bears’ game at Philadelphia in Oct. 21.

It was no snap decision.

If you recall the game that saved the Bears’ season (before it was lost the very next week with a home loss to the Detroit Lions), the score was tied at 9 in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia when a snap from center Olin Kreutz went through quarterback Brian Griese’s legs untouched and the ball was eventually scooped up by Eagles safety Sean Considine, the Byron, Ill., product, and returned to the Bears’ nine-yard line before Cedric Benson ran him down. Who said Benson could not outrun defensive backs?

No word yet, but I would have to imagine the Bears will be represented today at USC’s pro day. We should get word on the action from Los Angeles later on.

Thirty-two Trojans have been drafted in the last six seasons and the Bears are believed to have interest in two USC offensive linemen—guard Chilo Rachal and tackle Sam Baker. Both could be potential picks for the second round and the 44th overall selection.

Safety Brandon McGowan signed the one-year tender the Bears made him as a restricted free agent.

McGowan will earn $1.417 million this season as the team tendered him at the mid-level because of how they felt about his play at the end of last season and the lack of depth the Bears have at the position.

It will be awfully interesting if something unexpected happens when the draft begins and USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis slides.

There is always a twist or two at the top half of the first round that surprises, and the Bears would be hard-pressed to pass on Ellis if he fell into their laps no matter how pressing the need is for help on offense. It’s just how they landed Tommie Harris from Oklahoma back in 2004 when some teams took him off their draft boards because of concerns about his knees.

For the sake of this entry, let’s assume Ellis is long gone before the Bears go on the clock at No. 14. (For the record, I don’t see any way Ellis makes it out of the top 10).

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