The mailman was a little delayed today but here we go:
Q: You seem to be locked into the idea that the Bears will sign a veteran quarterback of marginal talent to come in and wear a visor behind Kyle Orton after what may or may not be a half-hearted competition during training camp. The names Chris Simms, Byron Leftwich, J.P. Losman, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jeff Garcia and on and on and on do nothing for me. I'm accepting of the fact that Kurt Warner will probably re-up with Arizona. What about Matt Cassel? Why no Cassel discussion? Didn't Jerry Angelo say he wouldn't rule out anything?
Ivan M., Wicker Park
A: Fair questions, Ivan. Certainly Cassel has to be on the radar of every team out there seeking a quarterback solution. That rules out one team in the NFC North, Green Bay. All indications at this point are that New England will slap the franchise tag on Cassel, a $14 million proposition which means the Patriots will have $27 million tied up in him and Tom Brady alone under the 2009 cap. There's considerable speculation that New England will tag Cassel with the intent of trading him, likely for draft picks as the Patriots look to infuse their roster with some youth. There are a couple of things at play here, the most significant being Brady's health. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and has battled an infection as well. If Brady isn't going to be available in 2009, and we're not suggesting that is the case, then it would be difficult to see New England shipping off Cassel. Brady's status is a source of great debate these days.
If Brady is expected to be ready, moving Cassel would make sense. At what price? It's unknown what kind of market there will be for him. He had one terrific season in which he was surrounded by some top-flight talent. He's not going to recreate that success without Randy Moss and Wes Welker, is he? You'd be looking at a situation where the Bears, or any other interested party, would have to fork over a high draft pick(s) and then sign Cassel to a large contract. Trade-and-sign deals are cumbersome. Maybe Angelo has not ruled this out at this point, but just because everything is still on the table doesn't mean it's a likelihood. Mike Reiss from the Boston Globe does a nice job summarizing Cassel's situation.
Q: How good do you think Dom Capers is as the Packers new defensive coordinator? I think he is pretty darn good as a defensive coordinator. Plus, he may switch them to a 3-4 in the next year or two. This really doesn't sound like good news for the Bears.
Creighton, Parts Unknown
A: Indeed, the Packers have announced they are going to make a move to the 3-4, news Mike McCarthy shared in Green Bay on Monday. It's a big move for the organization and one that is going to take some time to take root. There's a big difference in running these fronts and it will be interesting to see how things take shape. Capers has suggested it might not be a hard shift from one to the other. There are some real personnel issues to deal with. Green Bay has to find a nose tackle and ends to drive the engine. Cullen Jenkins may adapt nicely as an end in the system but Aaron Kampman could be a little light to make the switch. Linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk could flourish inside in the scheme, but the Packers don't appear to have a pass-rushing threat at outside linebacker. Free agency will be the first step for Green Bay and then the draft. Capers has a strong track record and the Packers have the weapons on offense to where they don't need to be complemented by a dominating defense. They just need a steady defense. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com takes a nice in-depth look at the situation. Rest assured, there will be some type of adjustment period, however, and it's likely to be measured in years, not months.
Q: What's wrong with Caleb Hanie? I would not waste a high pick on Mark Sanchez or any other quarterback unless Peyton Manning has a son. We need someone other than "Mr. Dink & Dunk" Kyle Orton though. I'd rather develop Hanie than watch Orton underthrow everybody all season long.
Moses, Parts Unknown
A: Nobody has found anything wrong with Hanie. Judging what Angelo said recently, he likes what the undrafted free agent from Colorado State has shown to this point. Depending on what move Angelo makes to import a quarterback--the Bears will get a third passer through free agency or the draft--Hanie could very well be in the mix for the No. 2 job. Orton is expected to spend the offseason as the starter, barring something unexpected like the Cassel situation outlined above. If they go the free agent route for a passer, Hanie probably winds up No. 3. If they go after a passer in the draft, his chances of being the backup improve.
Q: Who do you think should be the NFL offensive rookie of the year? I realize my opinion is bias, being a Bear fan, but I think Matt Forte should get it over quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, and running backs Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton. I'll explain. A lot of people think Ryan will win, and he probably will. But let me ask you this, not taking anything away from Ryan, but how would Ryan's numbers have looked without a runner like Michael Turner behind him [they say a good running game is a QB's bests friend], or a receiver like Roddy White? The only thing Forte had helping him for each game was a new set of cleats. As for Flacco, I think Forte's numbers as a runner were better then Flacco's as a QB. Forte was third in the league in yards from scrimmage, trailing only the Vikings' Adrian Peterson and Turner. Flacco wasn't third in the league in anything.
As for the runners, Forte blows both of these guys out of the water as far as being an all-purpose threat. Forte was the first NFL rookie to rush for at least a 1,000 yards, and catch more than 62 passes, again for emphasis, the FIRST in NFL history. Also, Forte's 63 receptions were the most by any NFL running back in 2008. Tell me again, why wasn't this guy a Pro Bowl alternate at the least? And like Ryan, both runners had advantages over Forte. Chris Johnson was spelled by LenDale White, and Steve Slaton had probably the league's best receiver, Andre Johnson, to open things up for him. In my opinion, Forte is the 2008 NFL offensive rookie of the year, hands down.
Kevin A., Parts Unknown
A: I've got bad news for you, Kevin. The hardware has already been handed out and Forte didn't win. Ryan was the runaway winner for the award, garnering 44 of the 50 votes vast. Johnson was second with three votes, followed by Denver left tackle Ryan Clady with two and Forte with one.
Now, I don't want to turn this into a Forte bashing session, or anything resembling that, but I believe the right man won the award and I believe he won by a landslide with good reason. He did what few rookie quarterbacks have been able to do and that is have real success in his first season. Ryan did so with a franchise that was not only awful the year before, but was also still reeling from the Michael Vick situation. It's the most difficult position to play in sports and Ryan excelled. Remember the final 11 seconds for the Bears in Atlanta? That had nothing to do with Turner.
Ryan is one of five rookie quarterbacks to start 16 games, ever. He's joined by Flacco on that list. Only Ben Roethlisberger won more games as a rookie (13) than Ryan and Flacco (11). The flip side to some of your arguments is that Forte was as productive as he was because the Bears didn't have anyone else to move the ball.
Forte caught 63 passes, tops in the league among backs, but for just 7.6 yards per reception. Blows Slaton out of the water? Slaton caught 50 passes and averaged 0.9 yards more per carry. If he caught 50 passes in the Texans' offense, which features Johnson as you point out, how many would he have had with the Bears? As far as Johnson, he finished with 1,228 yards, 10 less than Forte. Forte had 65 more carries. How does the presence of White detract from Johnson in that instance? White and Johnson were not on the field at the same time. Give Johnson 65 more carries, how would the numbers compare? Slaton outrushed Forte with 48 less carries.
As far as Clady, some view him as one of the best left tackles in the league already. There are no statistical comparisons that can be made but I think it's nice a lineman was recognized. I won't make a case for Flacco because I think Ryan was superior to him. Forte had a terrific rookie season. He carried the Bears' offense, particularly in the second half of the season when the passing game provided little support. Ryan was the class of all rookies.
Thanks for all of the questions. We'll jump back into the mailbag again Wednesday.