Start the countdown to the 2009 NFL Draft.
Well, we don't have to do that, do we? Many of you have started the countdown to the draft already.
It is 100 days away. The Bears and most teams pulled out of Houston today after nearly a week at the East-West Shrine Game, evaluating the rosters. They'll regroup before heading to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl this weekend. That is where the premier senior prospects land. Then, all roads lead to Indianapolis where the combine will be held in Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time.
Sticking with the draft as a theme, we'll dive into today's version of Four Down Territory.
Q: What type of compensatory draft pick can the Bears expect to receive?
A: The Bears appear to be in good shape this year after losing wide receiver Bernard Berrian, tight end John Gilmore and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo in free agency. Compensatory picks are awarded each March at the ends of rounds three through seven in the draft to the teams that suffer the most net losses in free agency.
The question I had on this matter was whether or not re-signing linebacker Lance Briggs would count against the Bears. After all, Briggs didn't return to the team until after he had entered the open market as a UFA. For the answer to that, we turned to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello:
"The signing of your own players does not count as a player gained,'' Aiello wrote in an e-mail. "Therefore, Briggs would not count against the Bears."
The Bears were one of 15 teams to get at least one compensatory pick last season, landing three. All of them were at the end of the seventh round and there's not a lot of value in picks within close distance of Mr. Irrelevant. There's a good explanation of how the system works here, and as ESPN.com's John Clayton writes, the formula for determining how the picks are assigned is top secret.
Teams spend an inordinate amount of time doing guesswork on how the picks will fall each year. The formula considers the value of the contracts the free agents were signed to and playing time. Berrian landed a whopper of a deal from Minnesota and played plenty. Gilmore received significant playing time in Tampa Bay. I'm not sure if special teams time counts for Ayanbadejo. But the Bears didn't sign an unrestricted free agent, so there will not be any players counting against them in the formula. Wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker and running back Kevin Jones were waived free agents, meaning they don't count in the formula.
We hate to hazard a guess, but it's certainly possible the Bears could land a third-round pick. Four were awarded last year. It's probably safe to say they will at least be given with a fifth-round pick, and could land multiple selections again.
Compensatory picks cannot be traded. The last compensatory selection the Bears had above the sixth round was a fifth rounder in 2003. Don't get too excited. That turned into Tron LaFavor. Long snapper Pat Mannelly was a compensatory selection in the sixth round in 1998.
Q: In Tampa, Rod Marinelli struggled to develop several first-round draft picks such as Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones and Eric Curry into reliable pass rushers. This eventually forced Tampa to go out and sign Pro Bowler Simeon Rice in order to get an edge rusher. Any chance with all this attention being put on defense they go out and try to get Julius Peppers or Terrell Suggs if they are available, or do they expect Marinelli to make the line that much better with what he has?
Creighton, Parts Unknown
A: That's the $1 million question, or is it more like a $60 million question when you figure how much Peppers or Suggs would command on the open market? There is no guarantee either one will be available as their respective employers could slap the franchise tag on them. I won't hang Curry on Marinelli because he was drafted in 1993, three years before Marinelli joined the Bucs' staff. Upshaw and Jones were both selected in 1996, Marinelli's first year, and neither of them became stars although Upshaw recorded 14 1/2 sacks from 1997 to 1998. It's too early to rule the Bears out of getting in the running for any player in free agency. Setting the market for a player isn't their style, however. Remember, they made a play for Jevon Kearse in 2004 when he jumped from from Tennessee to Philadelphia in free agency. They're probably glad they came up short. I'm betting the Eagles eventually had buyer's remorse on that one.
Certainly, Marinelli is being counted on to improve the players the Bears have under contract, specifically rush end Mark Anderson. I think it's safe to assume that Marinelli will be given some more players to work with. Whether they come through free agency or the draft remains to be seen.
Q: Being that there are always problems with the quarterbacks on this team, and we always hear the the first priority to address in the offseason is at quarterback, my question is shouldn't this team be looking at wide receivers instead? Shouldn't the Bears be looking at drafting Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri? He's got great hands, speed, and at 6-1, 200 pounds, he would fit in with Devin Hester and both guys would have breakaway speed. This could change the thought of bringing in a quarterback to this team.
Israel D., Parts Unknown
A: You're not going to find a Tiger out there that appreciates Maclin's skills more than this one. Heck, I was hoping he would stay in school for two more years. Maclin is expected to be a first-round draft pick and could potentially go in the first half of the first round but there is much work to be done. For starters, he's listed at 6-1, 200. NFL teams need to get in and measure him themselves to see how big he is. I'd suspect he'll be playing at a different size next year. That happens to most all players, especially wideouts.
You need to consider the track record of general manager Jerry Angelo when you look at the possibility of the Bears choosing a wide receiver in the first round. The Bears have not taken one in the first round since Angelo arrived, and in his history with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (he wasn't the only one calling the shots) he's drafted only one in the first round--Reidel Anthony in 1997. That didn't turn out so well for the Bucs. The bust factor at wide receiver is as big as it is at any position, period. You can't rule it out, but past history suggests the Bears will not go with a receiver in the first round.
Q: Have you talked to Rex Grossman lately? Is it a done deal he is gone? I like the guy but think a fresh start will be better for him and the Bears.
Wade, Parts Unknown
A: No, I have not spoken with Grossman since the season ended. You learn to never say never in the NFL, but I fully expect Grossman to sign elsewhere. It's not like the Bears have a decision to make on this one. Grossman is an unrestricted free agent. A fresh start would have been the right move for him to make a year ago.
That's all for tonight. Shoot more questions in and we'll get back at another edition of Four Down Territory on Friday. Thanks for reading.