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
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.
Q: Any chance the Bears go after Dennis Dixon in the fourth or fifth round? I think the kid has a lot of potential I would love the pick.
Matthew, Parts Unknown
I’d certainly say there is a chance the Bears could target the Oregon quarterback in the middle rounds. He’s still rehabbing a torn ACL, but was reportedly impressive last week when he worked out for scouts. The Bears, I was told, were not one of the teams present. Dixon is an intriguing guy, but one you’re not looking toward until 2009. The Bears seem to always be talking about a “redshirt” class for draft picks. Dan Bazuin and Michael Okwo headline it this year. For that reason, Dixon doesn’t make sense to me. This offense and this coaching staff needs players it can work with now. Of course, neither the coaches nor anyone else has asked for my opinion.
Q: What do you know about Mike Hass’ standing with the coaches? He seemed like a real promising rookie last spring and summer but then never got in a regular-season game. Have the coaches soured on him?
Cliff, Clinton, Ind.
I wanted to get to a Hass question quickly (there were several). He is the most popular player the Bears have had in at least the last eight years that has never done a thing on the field for them. Hass did dress for the Philadelphia game last season and was in on a handful of special teams plays. I’d say his lack of experience and ability to play special teams was probably the biggest reason he didn’t see more action. It’s a little farfetched to think he would have been a panacea for the dreadful passing game in 2007. If the coaches could not find a spot to utilize former second-round draft pick Mark Bradley, and needed nearly a half-season to get Devin Hester more involved, how can you expect them to carve out a niche for the former Biletnikoff Award winner? I know the guy has amazing hands and I’ve seen it myself in practice. But it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to make the roster in his third NFL season, and I would imagine at this point he’d probably embrace an opportunity elsewhere.
With Bradley, Hester, Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd and Rashied Davis (the restricted free agent is expected to return) that’s five wideouts right there. It’s a near certainty the club drafts one to bring them to six. Unless Lloyd finds a way to get himself cut, or someone gets injured (always possible), it’s going to be a challenge. Brandon Rideau finds himself in the same position because it’s just unlikely the team that gets off the bus running will keep seven wide receivers. They kept six last season didn’t use No. 6. Hass is a good guy and here’s hoping he gets a fair shake.
Q: What is Rashied Davis’ status? The more wide receivers on the roster the merrier.
Tony, Santa Clara, Calif.
Davis is a restricted free agent. The deadline to sign an offer sheet with another club is April 18. At this point, chances are he’s returning to the Bears at the low level tender of $927,000. He’s a quality slot receiver when the offense is functioning and is valuable on special teams, where I could see his role expanding this season.
Q: How reluctant would the Bears be to draft Michigan wide receiver Mario Manningham with their second round pick (44th overall) should he fall that far? He's been questioned on his character issues and it looks like he could drop out of the first round. Will be Bears be weary of him because of past problems with Tank Johnson? Also, will they shy away from him because of the disaster David Terrell turned out to be? I feel Manningham can be the best wide receiver in this draft and by the looks of his on-field numbers and highlights, there's no question.
Kris, Knoxville, Ill.
Kris: Manningham would have to be an intriguing selection in the middle of the second round. Earlier this week, he admitted to pot use and failing two drug tests in school. Worse, Manningham didn’t come clean with NFL personnel he met with at the combine and has had to address that issue with a letter he has sent to all teams in which he said he “wasn’t straightforward’’ with them.
Given Jerry Angelo’s decree at the combine that he is putting even more stock in character these days, I’d have to say that makes his selection unlikely. The guy didn’t help himself either with a slow 40 time (4.59 seconds at the combine, although he improved at his pro day) and is reported to have had differences with coach Lloyd Carr while in school. So, potentially you’re talking about rolling the dice with a former dope smoker who didn’t come clean with teams about the subject the first time around, didn’t time well and may be difficult to work with? No thanks.
Could Manningham turn into a star? No question about it. I just don’t see it being with a “C” on the side of his helmet. But I would agree he’d be a value pick at No. 44. A running back from Tennessee was dogged by a failed pot test at the combine back in 1994. The Philadelphia Eagles used the 42nd pick on Charlie Garner and he had nearly 11,000 yards of total offense in his 11-year career.
Q: Rate the chances of the Bears' first-round pick by position. I'd think its something like 35% OT, 30% RB, 20% DT, 15% other.
Mike, Fayetteville, Ark.
65 percent offensive lineman—Virginia’s Branden Albert is considered a guard by some.
10 percent quarterback—could Boston College’s Matt Ryan have that nervous Brady Quinn squirm on draft day?
10 percent running back—a lot of people are demanding a back. I just don’t see it. Not only does the experience with Cedric Benson scare the Bears, they still want to see him succeed.
10 percent defensive tackle—Chances would be higher if I thought Sedrick Ellis or Glenn Dorsey were actually going to slide. Both should go in the top nine.
5 percent other—if Jerry Angelo can manage a trade down in the first round, maybe another position jumps out. Miami safety Kenny Phillips? A receiver?
Q: As I understand the quarterback situation, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman will be working with very similar base salaries for the 2008 season. With this in mind, I cannot imagine the Bears would draft a quarterback that would make more in base salary than their experienced quarterbacks in competition for the starting job. Which of the Bears' picks in this year's draft would fall below this salary threshold for a QB, and when do you believe the Bears will draft a QB to develop?
The Bears are desperate for a franchise quarterback. They need one in the worst way. If Angelo could find one, he’d be silly not to pay the moon for his services. I don’t think that will be a factor in their thinking whatsoever. Moreover, base salaries are relatively insignificant when it comes to rookie deals. The bulk of the money for top picks is wrapped up in various bonus payments and escalators. Grossman’s base salary for 2008 is $1.5 million, $200,000 more than Orton’s. Grossman’s one-year contract maxes out at $4.5 million. Orton’s one-year extension (he was under contract for 2008) tops out at $5.02 million and they have the same triggers for escalators.
If the Bears are convinced there’s a guy who can develop into a starter in 2009, they could pull the trigger on a quarterback in the second round. If not, I could see them waiting until the fourth or fifth round to take a chance on a developmental guy. If Matt Ryan falls to No. 14, he’ll warrant discussion. Last year’s second-round pick, Dan Bazuin, signed a four-year deal with a signing bonus of $1.185 million. Any four-year deal for the No. 44 pick (the Bears’ second rounder) is easily going to trump the total value of deals for Grossman and Orton. It’s apples and oranges.
Q: By the time the offense has finished its one- to two-year rebuilding process and is competent, Adewale Ogunleye and Brian Urlacher will both be over 30. Trading these two for draft picks could allow the offense and defense to peak at the same time. Would the Bears be in better position to win in the long run if they traded these two dominant players?
Dave, Parts Unknown
You’re confident the offense will be rebuilt in one or two years? Do you know something about this quarterback competition the rest of us are dying to learn? Ogunleye and Urlacher will both be 30 this season. Trading Urlacher makes perfect sense if you’re tired of his pleas for a new contract. Dealing Ogunleye means you’re confident Dan Bazuin can be not just a strong role player in his first season but a strong starter. Ridding the roster of Urlacher and Ogunleye would ensure the defense will not be peaking in a year or two.
Q: It's starting to look to me like '06 when the whole world expected the Bears to take a tight end. Then the whole league spent the whole draft taking tight ends right in front of the Bears. We just waited a year and Greg Olsen dropped in our laps. This year could it be tackles instead of tight ends?
Gary, Parts Unknown
It could be. If so, there will be a whole lot of focus on your new starting right tackle, John St. Clair.
Q: Will we see more of Greg Olson this year? I think it’s crazy to draft someone with his talent and not use them.
Stan T., Maryland
I’d expect more from Olsen this season. He’ll be in his second year and unless the Bears get a real boost at wide receiver, they’re going to need to lean on him and Desmond Clark more in the passing game. It’s fair to say Olsen’s rookie season—39 receptions, 391 yards, two touchdowns—was in line with the first years of a lot of tight ends.
Twenty-one tight ends were drafted in the first round in the last 18 drafts (including Olsen) and only two had more than 400 yards in their rookie season—Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller in 2005 and the Giants’ Jeremy Shockey in 2002. Those 21 picks averaged 23 catches, 249 yards and two touchdowns. When you consider how broken the Bears’ offense was last season, I think Olsen’s numbers were strong.
Q: Cedric Benson looked slow and fat last year. Is that an illusion or is he slower and fatter than he was at Texas? Why didn't Mark Bradley play more last year? Was Muhsin Muhammed really that much better?
Jeff, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Benson certainly wasn’t very explosive last season and Lovie Smith has asked him to trim down for this season. The Mark Bradley issue has become a bit of a mystery wrapped inside of an enigma. Bradley missed about a week at the end of training camp last season and that appeared to sink him on the depth chart. If you recall, Smith explained at the start of the season that he was running fifth on the six-man depth chart. He’s been the whipping boy for position coach Darryl Drake at times during his career. Muhammad was their possession receiver last season and that’s not a role Bradley could fill. He’ll have his chance to flourish this season. For Benson and Bradley—the first two picks of 2005—their fourth seasons with the organization are make or break.
Q: I've seen some mock drafts where both Jeff Otah and Chris Williams will be available when the Bears pick. Compare and contrast these players in relation to how they fit the Bears’ system.
Williams is the more polished of the two players. He plays with better leverage and is probably a better fit as a left tackle. Otah is a little bit bigger and could have a higher ceiling after playing only two seasons at Pitt. He’s got a thicker base and longer arms but would have to have his game refined to have an opportunity to play on the left side. The Bears have shown interest in both and attended a private workout Otah had Wednesday. Both would fit what the team is doing. Whether or not both will be on the board, we’ll have to wait and see. I spoke with one high-powered agent Thursday (who doesn’t have a top tackle in the draft) and it was his opinion both would be available at No. 14.
Q: Is it possible Brian Urlacher had a written or unwritten clause in his deal, to always be the higher paid Bears linebacker?
Patrick D., Parts Unknown
There’s no such language in Urlacher’s contract. That would be a difficult thing to quantify also. How do you define highest paid? Higher average yearly salary? Guaranteed money? Urlacher wants more money because the salary cap has shot up 54 percent since he signed his nine-year extension in 2003. Of course, it would be more understandable had a he done something like a six-year extension.
Q: In his 20 years of running drafts between the Bears and Tampa, how many Pro Bowl offensive tackles has Jerry Angelo drafted? What could be considered Angelo’s best offensive draft class?
Creighton, Parts Unknown
FIrst of all, I don’t think you can assign all blame or all credit to Angelo for the drafts he was part of in Tampa from 1987-2001. He was the director of player personnel and didn’t have final authority. That being said, we know he hasn’t had great success drafting linemen with the Bears (he also hasn't tried a lot as he's allocated free agency dollars to build the line), although Marc Colombo is a solid starter now in Dallas at right tackle.
You asked for tackles, but the Bears need a guard, too, so I’ll examine linemen as a whole.
The Bucs drafted Paul Gruber out of Wisconsin with the fourth pick in 1988 and was a very solid player, setting a Tampa record with 183 starts. The offense stunk for much of Gruber’s career. Had it been better, he could have easily been named to a Pro Bowl.
Center Tony Mayberry was drafted in the fourth round in 1990 and made three Pro Bowls.
Right tackle Jerry Wunsch was selected in the second round in 1997 and become a solid NFL starter. Guard Frank Middleton was chosen in the third round that year and he was a starter on the high-powered Raiders offenses leading to their appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Guard Cosey Coleman, a second-round pick in 2000, had a steady seven-year career before knee injuries forced him to retire.
There were certainly picks in that span that didn’t pan out—Charles McRae in 1991 and Kenyatta Walker in 2001 stick out as first-round picks who did not flourish.
As far as the best offensive draft ... the Bucs got Warrick Dunn along with Wunsch and Middleton in 1997. That draft also produced cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Al Harris as well as linebacker Al Singleton. Not a bad draft. I think it’s fair to say the Bucs have been a defensive driven team. Kind of like here. That’s not to make an excuse for failed offensive picks however.
Q: So the Bears have enough money to do contract extensions for Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Robbie Gould and now Brain Urlacher, plus sign all their draft picks?
Dan Wilson, Knox, Ind.
The answer is yes. $16 million in available cap space is an enormous amount of space even when accounting for the rookie pool. It comes down to cash and how much the club wants to spend and how they want to allocate cap space in the future. How do you think a team like the Redskins wrote massive contracts year after year after year until this season? It can be done. But it’s a matter of the club determining how much they want to pay and those players determining if it works for them.
Q: Do you think Matt Forte is a fit for the Bears’ offense?
Paulo B., Sao Paulo, Brazil
Although Forte played against some smaller competition at Tulane in Conference USA, I think he would be a decent fit for what the Bears do. He runs with good vision and is strong enough to make yards after contact. I’m not sure that Forte has that top gear to take a play all the way, but he’s a rugged, aggressive back who also has some skills as a receiver out of the backfield. I think he can handle blitz pickup assignments, too, and that’s always been something that’s dinged Cedric Benson. Remember, Benson blew a block that led to Brian Griese getting hurt at Oakland last season.
Q: Who do you see as possible trade partners with the Bears in the draft? Does anyone have a surplus of second- or third-round picks?
I think Angelo could get together with anyone but the San Francisco 49ers and make a trade happen on draft weekend. I hear the Bears aren't getting along so well the Niners these days.
Atlanta has a bounty of draft picks with the Falcons owning three second-round selections and two in the third round to give them five of the top 68 picks and six of the top 98. Given the state of Arthur Blank’s franchise, I don’t see first-year general manager Tom Dimitroff dealing away much of that depth.
Q: Bears fans seem fanatic about drafting Rashard Mendenhall. I'm a Big Ten fan and Mendenhall didn't seem to be a sure first-round pick coming out of college. He had a great combine and he's a pretty good running back, but this draft seems really deep at the position. So, is Mendenhall really worth the hype (and the 14th pick), or is he getting too much love from the hometown fans? To put it another way, can we get a back with the same potential at a later pick who isn't a local favorite?
Dave, Parts Unknown
Mendenhall visited Halas Hall Thursday but I’ve said for some time I don’t believe he is a likely match for the Bears with the 14th pick. There are too many reasons that make me think the club will look elsewhere in the first round if the Illinois back is on the board at 14. Angelo’s draft history is weighted toward selecting linemen on both sides of the ball. There is a higher bust factor often when looking at skilled position players. The needs on the line are glaring. And as you said, this class does have depth. I believe the Bears feel they can get a back with similar upside later in the draft. As promising as Mendenhall? Maybe not. Close? Let’s put it this way, the dropoff to linemen in the later rounds is going to be more significant.
Q: Most of the mock drafts have discussed the Bears need for an offensive tackle, running back, and quarterback (which I agree with, a lot). Within the first round, either an offensive tackle or running back is projected to be taken by the Bears. My question is this: what about the Bears need to draft a wide receiver... and where could that fit (if at all) in the first three rounds of the draft?
Ian, Downers Grove
Yes, the Bears have a real need for a playmaking wide receiver in their efforts to add more speed to the offense. There doesn’t seem to be a receiver on the board that would be a match for the 14th pick. I would say there is a good chance they choose one in the second round at No. 44 or with one of their two third-round picks. The team is high on Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly and if his quad injury hadn’t dropped him on draft boards, his trip through quick sand Wednesday in Norman, Okla., did. Kelly blamed a 4.68-second time in the 40-yard dash for running in the Sooner’s indoor football facility on a spongy surface and not the Astroturf at the indoor track. He’d be an intriguing selection at No. 44 but would instantly be dogged with questions about another Sooners wide receiver taken in the second round, Mark Bradley.
Q: What do you think of potential third and fourth round picks Kirk Barton, offensive tackle Ohio State, Mike McGlynn guard Pitt and Jeremy Zuttah guard Rutgers?
Jake D., Middleton, Idaho
Zuttah is the one of the bunch the team has shown the most interest in, with line coach Harry Hiestand putting him through a private workout in early March. The Bears also attended a workout McGlynn had Wednesday where tackle Jeff Otah also did work. Barton had a fantastic pro day at Ohio State to boost his stock last month, but with the Bears looking for someone to step in and start as a rookie, I’m not sure he fits the profile. Ideally, the Bears will select two tackles but by the time they get around to getting another one he could be off the board. All three could be credible NFL starters.
Q: Do NFL players ever get spot rewards due to exceptional performance that fall outside of their contract? For instance, when Rex Grossman was NFC player of the month in September 2006 (seems like a lifetime ago), would it ever happen that an owner would throw him say $25,000 as recognition for an outstanding accomplishment? Or, do they stay strictly to the details of the contract? It's something I've always wondered.
Quentin, Parts Unknown
You’ve wondered if the McCaskeys would just open the checkbook and spend just because? No. Such rewards would be in violation of the league’s rules and would not be in line with the guidelines for the salary cap.
Q: I don't understand how the Bears can have a player on their team for seven years like Terrence Metcalf and then think he cannot be an instant starter. How could they be surprised by his poor play ... as it has been described last year? And if Josh Beekman isn't ready to play the position he was drafted to play after a year with the Bears, doesn't this say offensive coaches can't develop players and the Angelo personnel team can't draft offensive players?
David H., Parts Unknown
Metcalf could face an uphill battle to make the roster this season, especially if the Bears use a high selection on a guard. As things are constructed right now, he and Beekman are in competition for the job at left guard. Metcalf, a third-round pick in 2002, got his opportunity when Ruben Brown was injured last season but wound up being replaced by John St. Clair. There’s value in having a veteran like Metcalf around, and he’s certainly not pulling down big bucks, but he will have to show improvement. If Beekman doesn’t step forward and take the job, the fourth-round pick from last season needs to become a serviceable backup. He worked at center a lot last year in practice. He’s a little undersized to project as a top line starter in my opinion.
Q: On the quarterback situation ... is it going to be a "real" competition? Who do you think will start Week 1?
Braxton, Salt Lake City, Utah
Now we’re talking. Quarterback questions.
To hear Brandon Lloyd tell it on a conference call with media last month, the fix is in.
Lloyd was at Halas Hall and met with coaches on the day he signed his contract. Presumably, a question like “who is going to be my quarterback?’’ came up at some point. Before he left the building, Lloyd shared with media that Rex Grossman was the starting quarterback. That was until some people sitting near him, including his college coach Ron Turner, got him straightened out.
Signing Kyle Orton to a contract of essentially equal value is the first move you’ve seen the franchise make since drafting Grossman in the first round in 2003 to even the playing field. Whether ot not that field is level yet, and whether or not we’ll be watching a “real” competition is debatable but at some point you have to take the coaches on their word.
I doubt the man who wins the job will be grossly outperformed in the preseason. We have seen evidence of Lovie Smith pulling the plug on a disaster waiting to happen when Chad Hutchinson was launched at the end of the summer in 2005.
Q: Do you believe the Bears will remain loyal to Brian Urlacher especially because he has not taken the level of disrespect to the Bears as fellow linebacker Lance Briggs did?
Ish, Syracuse, N.Y.
I’m not sure how the Bears have been unloyal to Urlacher. He is still under contract and the club is living up to its end of that $56 million bargain. I think it’s fair to say Urlacher is just about at the point Briggs was a year ago, too. Ultimately, will the club throw Urlacher some extra cash to appease him? Quite possibly. But the way this thing has unfolded publicly has not served his cause, I can tell you that. His timing would be much better, too, if he wasn’t coming off neck surgery following a season in which he was not one of the top five middle linebackers in the NFC in the Pro Bowl selection process. The chronic back problem doesn’t help either.
Q: What do you think of Josh Johnson, the quarterback from San Diego, and what do you think the chances are of the Bears drafting him?
Kyle R., Parts Unknown
Johnson had a wildly productive career playing for ex-Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh against inferior competition. Some of his statistics are ridiculous. He passed for 43 touchdowns last season with just one interception. Johnson is athletic at 6-3, 213 pounds, and moves well but his footwork needs some real refinement. He’s a raw project that someone will draft in the mid rounds probably. I believe the Bears are higher on San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell after quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton went out there and checked both out.
That's all for now. Thanks for the interest.