Chicago Sun-Times

Countdown to free agency: A look at wide receiver

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You don't have to look beyond the production of the Bears' wide receivers this past season to know it's a problem area. A case can be made the position has not been in more disarray in the Lovie Smith era, and the Bears used four starters at the position in 2008 for the third time in five years under Smith.

Rashied Davis led the group with 12 starts followed by Devin Hester (eight), Marty Booker (five) and Brandon Lloyd (five). It was the first time one player did not make at least 15 starts, and the position is in need of an overhauling. General manager Jerry Angelo has made one impact free-agent signing at the position in bringing in Muhsin Muhammad before the 2005 season.

In the last five drafts Angelo has used three picks in the first three rounds on receivers--Bernard Berrian (third round, 2004), Mark Bradley (second round, 2005) and Earl Bennett (third round, 2008). Obviously, Bennett is the only one still on the roster and he didn't make a catch last season in 10 games, although most of his time was spent on special teams.

The point Angelo made in his end-of-season press conference was that wide receivers and running backs are secondary when it comes to the quarterback. There's some truth to that. A No. 1 wide receiver isn't going to be a No. 1 receiver if he doesn't have a quarterback who can get him the ball consistently every week. Larry Fitzgerald wouldn't have been Larry Fitzgerald last season in the Bears' offense.

With the opening of free agency 49 days away, we'll look at the crop of receivers who are available in free agency below. First, here is how the Bears have lined up in the starting lineup at the position since Smith took over:

Starts by Bears Wide Receivers last five seasons


David Terrell 15
Bobby Wade 14
Justin Gage 2
Bernard Berrian 1


Muhsin Muhammad 15
Justin Gage 11
Mark Bradley 4
Bernard Berrian 2


Muhsin Muhammad 16
Bernard Berrian 14
Rashied Davis 2


Muhsin Muhammad 16
Bernard Berrian 15
Rashied Davis 1


Rashied Davis 12
Devin Hester 8
Marty Booker 5
Brandon Lloyd 5

The crop of wide receivers isn't very overwhelming. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the class of the group. There's already talk in Tampa that the Bucs will re-sign Antonio Bryant, who probably should have won comeback player of the year honors. Beyond them, there really isn't much there. Anquan Boldin remains under contract in Arizona and the issue in trading for him is not only do you have to fork over picks, players or both to get him, then you have to give him a giant contract.

Nate Washington's name has been thrown out there. He made 40 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns this season for Pittsburgh. Here's the issue with Washington--he's been a role player for the Steelers. Washington made one start this season and has seven over the last three years. The problem teams can run into when they pay a No. 3 wideout from another organization to be a No. 2 wideout is they pay No. 2 money and get the same No. 3 production. That's not to say Washington could not provide a downfield threat for the Bears, or any other team, but you have to be careful when projecting players into larger roles than they have performed.

A look at the free agents:

Unrestricted Free Agents

Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drew Carter, Oakland Raiders
Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Keary Colbert, Detroit Lions
Terrance Copper, Baltimore Ravens
Bobby Engram, Seattle Seahawks
Jabar Gaffney, New England Patriots
Dante Hall, St. Louis Rams
Cortez Hankton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cincinnati Bengals
Darrell Jackson, Denver Broncos
Bryant Johnson, San Francisco 49ers
Mark Jones, Carolina Panthers
Brandon Jones, Tennessee Titans
Ashley Lelie, Oakland Raiders
Brandon Lloyd, Bears
Dane Looker, St. Louis Rams
Justin McCareins, Tennessee Titans
Shaun McDonald, Detroit Lions
Koren Robinson, Seattle Seahawks
Edell Shepherd, Denver Broncos
Amani Toomer, New York Giants
Nate Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers
Reggie Williams, Jacksonville Jaguars

Restricted Free Agents

David Anderson, Houston Texans
Hank Baskett, Philadelphia Eagles
Shaun Bodiford, Green Bay Packers
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers
Glenn Holt, Cincinnati Bengals
Sam Hurd, Dallas Cowboys
Justin Jenkins, Buffalo Bills
Ruvell Martin, Green Bay Packers
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
Ben Obamanu, Seattle Seahawks
Courtney Roby, New Orleans Saints
Todd Watkins, Oakland Raiders
Jeff Webb, Kansas City Chiefs
Demetrius Williams, Baltimore Ravens
Wallace Wright, New York Jets

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Makes one long for the good old days of Wendel Davis. I personally wouldn't mind seeing Engram back as a Bear - think he would mesh well with Orton. I'd also like to see the Bears take a chance on Brandon Jones, who hasn't panned out with the Titans. But I think he's got some unrealized potential. And of course, Housh is the cream of the class. Look at his numbers with Fitzpatrick at QB: They kind of refute Brad and Jerry's argument that a #1 receiver can't perform without a qb.

Give Brandon Rideau a fricking chance.

Paul,on the other hand, look at Moose M. With the Bears he basically bombed out, but was grear before he came and after he left. Certainly the quarterbacks were a part of that scenario, and how many times did Orton miss wide open receivers this year? Dropped balls also were factors, but even then the quarterback throwing behind, too high, or a laser five yards away was part of the problem.

I think realistically Jerry has to take a very serious look at signing T.J. since their will not be another true #1 receiver available, and this will give Kyle every opportunity to flourish next season. If not, or if they go the route of the draft at wideout then we risk the possibility of not seeing everything Kyle is capable of, and we would be holding the offense back. Besides a true run stuffing DT, I don't see a greater need than a #1 wide-out, although like I said defense first. GO BEARS!!

this list makes me want to puke lol

this is a list of bad...

and no to bobby engram...hes ouchy and old...we got that in booker...

and i dunno if we should dish out big bucks for Housh because he'll be 32 in sept...hes going to start to decline in the middle of that contract(jerry rice type wr are a rarity)... his only saving grace is that since he was a 7th round pick there may not be too much wear on the tires...but im not sure on it yet...

i say if we take a FS rnd 1(mays or the guy from mizzou) and a wr in rnd 2(that gut from UNC who's name i cant remember right now) and give rideau and bennett a longer look this offseason we can have a pretty good young WR core to develop. it'll be better than the poop running routes this yr

Here is another list of crap just like the one yesterday about QB's. There is 1 name on the list in TJ Housh..... and then a whole lot of garbage.

The Bears are going to keep Hester, Bennett and hopefully give Rideau a chance this year.

They also will probably keep Booker = Crap, Drops Davis and Brandon "I will be on my 4th team" Lloyd. I just hope they will realize these players have lost a few steps and finally clean house.

The best play would be to package there #1 pick with maybe a 3rd or 4th round for Boldin or Ocho Cinco. That would make this offense a hundred times better. Hester could not be keyed up on all day and Orton will have someone who will catch 8-10 balls a game rather than drop 8-10.

But according to Angelo WR is not an issue, so we will all just have to pray that he pulls his head out of his ... and shocks us all by agressively adding a seasoned receiver. We can only hope.

Talk about a "scrap heap" if there ever was one. A couple of these guys will get lucky put up good stats for a year or two in New England or New Orleans or wherever, but for the most part, this is a B-list of role players and backups. These guys aren't going to help Orton any more than developing the receivers we already have. Judging from Angelo's recent comments, we won't be trading for any Andre Johnson types anytime soon either.

We would be better off drafting a guy to play right tackle in the second round (we really, really need to take a DB first, the secondary is the biggest mess on the whole team) and continuing to use Forte on every other play as if he were the next Brian Westbrook - he might actually be that good one day. We got lucky with Beekman, and I think Kreutz and Garza have a couple good years left at C and RG. But even if Chris Williams pans out, we can't go through another year of Tait, Miller and St. Clair fighting it out for the RT spot unless we want to be watching a bunch of NFC East teams on TV again next January.

Sure, Larry Fitzgerald wouldn't have been Larry Fitzgerald in the Bears offense. But regardless of offensive scheme or style, can you really say Peyton Manning or Drew Brees would have been themselves with our line and our receivers either?

We pretty much know what we're going to get with Booker, Rashied and Lloyd (if he stays). None of the available free agents represent a significant upgrade over those guys. At least one guy out of Hester, Bennett and Rideau should develop into at least a #2 receiver and even if they don't, it's worth it to play those guys and find out what we have. Plus, Forte led us in receptions anyway, and it's no secret we go to our (excellent) tight ends a lot, which didn't hurt teams in Atlanta, San Diego and Dallas that were good this and/or last year.

The team averaged 23 points a game or so this year, and considering all the money spent and emphasis placed on the defense, that should have been enough to win more than nine games. We'd all love it if they traded for Boldin or drafted Michael Crabtree, but let's be realistic - we have a stingy front office, a situation where we're forced to draft out of needs, the #18 pick in the draft, a porous secondary and most importantly of all, a developing QB who did pretty alright with a group of guys who should keep getting better.

Housh sounds nice but this guy is somewhat over rated.
He'll be another Mushin. remember when Mushin bacame a Bear few years back? we got all excited that we finally got a NO 1 receiver but look what happened. I think same will happen with Housh. 32 is way too old. we need someone in their prime. Age 25 - 28. I believe trade is the best option we have left.

I would definitely voice my support for re-signing Brandon Lloyd. He's a playmaker with the ability to leap for the ball and make sweet acrobatic catches. If we lose him, it will be just like last season when we got rid of Moose and Berrian without having anyone to take their place. Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it.

If I ran the Bears O, I would have Lloyd and Greg Olsen as the starting WRs because let's face it, Olsen is not a true TE but he does have reliable (for the most part) mitts and creates mismatches.

That would mean in a two tight end formation, Clark and monster Kellen Davis would be the starting TEs and Olsen could use his size to make catches on the outside or Lloyd could use his abilities to out jump his man.

Hester would be subbed in every now and then and used as a decoy or to stretch the field with his speed, but his primary focus would be the return game where he actually is a number one at his position. Davis was fantastic in the slot during 2006, so maybe he should return to that spot?

And of course Bennett would be gradually used in a rotation until he proves he's getting it.

Eh, but what do I know? I'm just a fan

Earl Bennett on one side, Brandon Lloyd on the other, and Hester as a slot receiver...I think that can work nicely. more the bears are cheap stuff

tell that to

cedric benson
mushin Mohommad
john tait
devin hester
fred miller

and thats just on offense since JA has been here

dont let me list all the big money spent on defense

the problem isnt that they dont spend enuff its that they dont spend it wisely

THATS the issue

Housh is going to be 32 when the 09 season not sure i want to max pay a wr who could be in decline in a yr or 2 with an unsure qb situation

orton proved this yr that if you have steady QB play you're WR dont have to be spectacular...

that being said...there needs to be an infusion of talent at the WR position...

i think another 1st day pick should be used on a WR AND lovie should PLAY them...

i think hester, rideau, bennett, a rookie and booker is an above avg wr core that can be developed into something better

Why does Darryl Drake still have a job? How many receivers have we drafted and cut, since he's been here. Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, and Mark Bradley. I'm not saying they're great receivers, but we couldn't get anything out of them and now they start for other teams. The only one that we were able to develop is Bernard Berrian, and we couldn't afford to keep him. Earl Bennett gets drafted and can't see the field over the current group we have? Something is wrong here.

I don't know if Darryl Drake is a problem or not. Justin Gage, Mark Bradley, Bobby Wade, Bernard Berrian all went and performed for other teams. Did those other teams "fix" the receivers we broke, or are our Gm, Head Coach, and O Coordinator incapable of using the right guys from the group the position coach is developing? Hester is looking better already too. Rideau looked awesome in the pre-season, then never touched the field in the regular season. Hass looked like a great hands/possession receiver for us, and never made the roster, and now has signed with the Seahawks.

I don't think we have a wide receiver development problem, I think we have a "don't keep the guys we develop" problem, and that starts with the GM (retaining) and Head Coach (depth chart).

Unless you can prove to me Drake made the decision to start Davis and keep Hass, Rideau, and Bradley out of the mix, I don't think position coaching is the issue here. It will be interesting to see how many other teams continue to successfully use the wideouts we draft/acquire and train and then let go. In 2009, if our group continues to frustrate while Hass, Bradley, Berrian, Gage, Wade, etc. continue to develop or perform elsewhere, I wouldn't blame Drake for that.

poop wr is poop wr...

just because they are starting doesnt mean they are good and/or productive

the titans and vikings all have horrible WR corps

the only one that has any kind of real talent is berrian and for what he provided (some flash and some ouchiness)

it wasnt nearly worth the top 5 wr pay he got

though i wonder the samething about drake

BUT is it because hes been given poop to work with through bad drafting and free agency aquisitions or is it because he is just bad

at least on the defensive side of the ball you have evidence of ability in the have none of that with what we have in the WR chamber

Darryl Drake is not good, because Bernard Berrian is the only one that became a playmaker, because Moose M. worked with him and he became a stand out for Rex, while Moose handle the #1 WR role. We need to have a #1 WR thru a trade and Lovie shouldn't be afraid to part ways with there first 3 picks, they never seems to get it right that much anyways. We got Olson because he fell to us and if he hadn't they would have trade out the first round and pray they get some good players out the extra pick they would have gotten. We all cried for an O-lineman last year, and we got one with the bear's first pick and he was hurt all year. JA please trade your first 2 pick and try to get Boldin or Ocho Cinco if thats what it takes, then do what u do best with the lower picks. We will be better than last year and support u 100% in the 2009 season & playoffs. Go Bears!!!!!

I definitely don't think it's a "keep the guys we develop problem". If the GM sees these guys aren't producing on the field or even able to make it onto the field, he's going to get rid of them and try to find someone who can. Either the Head Coach and OC aren't recognizing a guy's talent and letting them get on the field, or the position coach isn't getting the WR prepared enough to know his routes and assignments to be trusted on the field. Like I said, plenty of other Head coaches and OCs trust these same guys to get on the field and start for their team. Bradley was hurt an awful lot, but when he got healthy again he still never saw the field again. Just because Rideau was great against scrubs in the preseason doesn't mean he's ready to play on Sunday's. Is it Drake's fault? Or are Smith and Turner not giving him a chance?


THAT is the million dollar question...

though who gets on the field on offense from what ive read is a turner decision.

its hard to tell if the players are just bad (because gage, wade, berrian and bradley arent exactly taking the NFL by storm)

or they arent being coached correctly

i think its a mixture of both

Just get a WR that can connect with Orton, and more often than one catch per game. Thats all I want. I would love to see a great set of WRs who connect with Orton and the great RB that is Forte, my GOD would we be deadly. But only time will tell.

Mike Hass will not be back with the Bears. He signed a futures contract this week with the Seattle Seahawks.: Larry Mayor from

It seems Biggs answered my question in the Four Down Q&A:

Bennett dressed for 10 games but was rarely used on offense and didn't catch a pass. As the season progressed, it became apparent the coaching staff simply did not trust him on the field. How else can you explain his lack of use? It's not like he was fighting to get playing time in between Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. Clearly, the coaching staff felt he was behind the curve and was not ready to take the field. If that doesn't change in 2009, he'll quickly be in Mark Bradleyland, which is where receivers who fall out of favor must bide their time. Typically, that time is spent waiting anxiously on the sideline.

Alot of media types thought Bennett was a good pick in the 3rd rd. So, what happened? Why hasn't he progressed at all during the season? Could be the players fault, but when only 1 out of 5 WRs develop I think it's the position coach.

OK we need to stop woring on the offense. The focus should be on the god damm defence. we need DBs. If we had some we would be in the playoffs. ya some wideouts would be nice and needed. If we could just get some DBs we could defend them big time recevers like Andre Johnson. Then I would go out and get a big strong physical recever in the 3 round of the draft. 2009 BEARS PLAYOFFS IN ARE VIEW

I think the Bears need a big, physical, move the chains kind of receiver to complement Hester's speediness. Housh would be ideal, but I think Cinci would be nuts to keep Chad Johnson and dump Housh. Not a lot of great talent left on that list.

Of who is left, Bryant Johnson is probably the best fit. He didn't do a ton in SF last year. He didn't do much in SF last year (they had a worse passing game than the Bears), but he does have a lot of talent. He wouldn't cost a lot to take a flier given his lack of production this year.

Pretty slim pickings,
Housh is a great WR, Don't worry about Ocho no Statso, Housh is the Bengals No. 1. He is money on any Fantasy Football team (money meaning stats!) even with a backup QB he put up the numbers, now 32 years means no long contract which he will want of course, but I believe NFL contracts are not guaranteed so who cares? Give him a long contract. Devery Henderson would not be a bad pickup either, but Engram?, - nope we have Marty Engram already, .
I agree The WR Coach showed how good he is so let him go.

I really agree with the fact the bears need a #1 wide receiver to be a top 10 offense for 2009 but lets face it, Chicago is a running game first("we get off the bus running") and defensive(monsters of the midway) cold weather town. Do we really wanna be a pass happy team built for an indoor arena when playoff football is played in freezing cold weather? We love a solid running game that can get tough yards on 3rd and short(so tired of failed short yard plays 2 tha full back that kills a drive on 3rd and 4th down). Our offense doesn't stay on the field long enough and keep the defense fresh (especially since the defense is getting older and not playing the younger talent that could possibly keep those big offensive lineman off Urlacker so he can play like he's capable of or living up 2 contract expectations) and that shows with the time of possession difference. I would love to see the bears draft another offensive lineman with a mean attitude to play alongside Kruetz and the other 2 young lineman Williams and Beekman. That would establish Forte as a dominant force and maybe give Orton 2or3 more seconds to find an open receiver down field(if they could show some seperation ability). Why can't we have the best defense and best running game in the league like 1985. Do u feel me?

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 9, 2009 9:50 AM.

Introducing Four Down Territory was the previous entry in this blog.

Marinelli: "We'll wait a few days and see how things work out'' is the next entry in this blog.

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